The Great War – Prohibition becomes Patriotism
How could the Elks Lodge members’ traditional 11 o’clock toast to departed members become unpatriotic?
After decades of advocacy, prohibitionists found in World War I food conservation programs an unstoppable vehicle to make prohibition of alcohol patriotic. Even before America declared war, programs saving food aimed to feed starving European refugees. Making alcohol used starch (potatoes, grain, corn) that could feed troops or hungry allies. Drinking alcohol was transformed into an unpatriotic act. Elks Lodge 616 would be square in the debate, and eventually labeled unpatriotic.
Both Hawaii’s branch of the national Anti-Saloon League and Elks Lodge 616 were founded in 1901. By World War I, the Anti-Saloon League was well organized and part of the ‘establishment.’ The press supported prohibition, even if their readers didn’t. Nippu Jiji editor Yatsutaro Soga supported prohibition and nearly lost his job. Advertiser headlines (“Grain much too precious to waste in intoxicants”) reminded readers liquor was now unpatriotic. “Sake not distilled wants exemption” was neutral, but “Liquor Men squealing” showed Advertiser leanings.