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Iconic Anti-Prohibition License Plate from 1932 Presidential Campaign
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[PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND CAMPAIGNS]. FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. JOHN NANCE GARNER. Metal license plate with beer mug. 9⅝ x 4⅝ in.

Inventory #25139       Price: $6,500

The repeal of prohibition was a central issue in the election of 1932, and Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt and his running mate John Nance Garner supported repeal. Collectors regard this as the most desirable political license plate.

Historical Background

Prohibition was the result of decades of effort by the temperance movement, who argued that the widespread consumption of alcohol contributed to poverty, industrial accidents, immoral behavior, and violence. From 1906, the Anti-Saloon League began a campaign at the state level, and by 1916, twenty-three states had already passed progressive laws against saloons.

The Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors. Congress passed the proposed amendment in December 1917, and forty-five of the forty-eight states quickly ratified, making it part of the Constitution in January 1919. Although President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act that served as enabling legislation in October 1919, Congress overrode his veto, and Prohibition began in January 1920.

The amendment did not ban the consumption of alcohol outright, but made it almost impossible to obtain alcoholic beverages legally. The result was mass disobedience of prohibition laws, a new culture of smuggled liquor, illegal nightclubs and organized crime, police corruption, the production of sometimes lethal home-made liquor, and crowded prisons. By the late 1920s, public sentiment turned against Prohibition.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his Democratic presidential campaign address on August 27, 1932, recognized prohibition as “a complete and tragic failure. I need not point out to you that general encouragement of lawlessness has resulted; that corruption, hypocrisy, crime and disorder have emerged, and that instead of restricting, we have extended the spread of intemperance. This failure has come for this very good reason: we have depended too largely upon the power of governmental action instead of recognizing that the authority of the home and that of the churches in these matters is the fundamental force on which we must build....”

With the country mired in the Great Depression, reversing the Eighteenth Amendment held out the possibility of creating jobs and increasing revenue by legalizing and taxing the liquor industry. After Roosevelt’s landslide victory over incumbent President Herbert Hoover, in February 1933 Congress adopted a resolution proposing a Twenty-first Amendment to repeal the Eighteenth amendment. Fearing that the temperance lobby remained too strong in state legislatures, Congress chose to have the amendment ratified by state conventions rather than by state legislatures. It remains the only constitutional amendment to be ratified this way. By December 1933, the requisite thirty-six states (three-fourths) ratified the Amendment, and Prohibition was over. Because the states retained control over the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages, a few states continued to prohibit alcohol, but all had abandoned the ban by 1966.

Condition

Very fine

Provenance

Ex- David and Janice Frent Collection. Pictured in Arthur Schlesinger, ed., Running for President: The Candidates and their Images, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 2:174.


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