Everything’s Up To Date in Kansas City*

I’ve just finished, and just enjoyed Thomas Frank’s new book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, curiously though rather pointlessly retitled What’s the Matter with America? for its UK edition. (I read the US edition, bought cheap at the APSA.) Anyway, as I say, it’s a fine, fine book, but what I was most struck by was footnote 14 on p.283:

Beer contianing less than 3.2 percent alcohol is one of the constant reminders of the Prohibition years in Kansas. Prohibition began in Kansas by constitutional amendment in 1881, but in 1937 the state legislature declared beer with less than 3.2 percent alcohol to be a “cereal malt beverage”, not an “intoxicating liquor”, and hence legal. Proper liquor was not permitted in Kansas until 1948, and even then it could only be dispensed from liquor stores and, later, private clubs. What few taverns you found in Kansas when I was in college sold only the three-two stuff.In the seventies, Attorney General Vern Miller went to outrageous lengths to reming the world that prohibition was still largely in effect in Kansas, once even raiding an Amtrak train for serving liquor as it traveled through the state. Airlines, too, were required to stop serving drinks when in Kansas airspace…

The note ends by inviting you to “read up on the fascinating, perplexing history of Kansas liquor law” here [pdf] (though I’ve posted the correct URL here, rather than the incorrect one listed in the book).

* Yes, yes, I know Kansas City’s in Missouri. Don’t panic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *