The Drinking History of the US

I have been reading "A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico" and I notice a common theme with other history books about the early US --drinking alcohol was a major preoccupation with early Americans. I became curious enough that I looked in the book "The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition" by W.J. Rorabaugh and found the following chart.


Notice the huge drop in consumption around 1850. This drop is consistent with development of a temperance movement in the US in the mid-19th century. This movement was significant enough to be mentioned in the history books that I have been reading.

There is also the drop around the 1920s to 1930s, that is when prohibition was put into effect. Notice how it doesn't completely drop to 0. That's because prohibition did not (and could not) stop people from consuming alcohol. Blood alcohol tests like those utilized when drug testing in Pampa TX would not be in common use by law enforcement until after prohibition. Meaning even if prohibition outlawed the drinking of alcohol, it would have been very hard to prove someone had done so unless they were visibly drunk. Drinking levels were low, but it was never 0.

As a boy, I delivered the Minneapolis Star afternoon newspaper door-to-door. Every two weeks I would collect money for the papers I delivered. People usually invited me into their homes because Minnesota was often cold outside. I was always surprised at the number of people who were drunk when I entered their homes. It did not matter what time of day I stopped by. A few of them were my peers so must have known where to buy fake id cards so they could buy alcohol underaged. I cannot imagine what I would have encountered if the alcohol consumption levels were two or three times greater than they were in 1970, a year in which I delivered papers. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.4 million adults (18 and above) had Alcohol Use Disorder. I guess we have to grateful to those who run and work in addiction treatment centers, like Enterhealth (see their center at, as they help these people overcome their struggles with alcohol and addiction.

This entry was posted in History of Science and Technology, Osseo, Personal. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Drinking History of the US

  1. What do you know about the mathematics of space elevators? I have some questions about the distance and falling rates. THX!

    • mathscinotes says:

      My sons and I talk about this technology quite a bit. I will add it to my list of posts to be written. Unfortunately, enough math passes my way that the list keeps growing. However, this is an interesting subject for which I have some information.


      • I wish to make sure that my math is correct. I have begun the 3D models of a graphic novel I am producing, a space elevator's speed and heights for certain parts of the story will need to be considered - for accuracy sake!

Comments are closed.