Saloon-Keepers' Rebellion

From Ohio History Central
Pleading with a Saloonist.jpg
Reproduction of an illustration depicting a group of women praying in the street and trying to persuade a saloon keeper to stop selling alcoholic beverages, ca. 1873-1874. The caption reads "Pleading with a Saloonist."

The Saloon Keepers' Rebellion was a protest movement in opposition to the Dow Law, which authorized the state government to tax and regulate the trafficking of alcohol within Ohio.

At the urging of Republican Governor, George Foraker, the Ohio legislature enacted the Dow Law was in 1886. The Dow Law stipulated that saloon owners had to pay the state two hundred dollars per year to operate. It also permitted local governments to restrict or prohibit the sale of alcohol within their own municipalities.

The Republican Party strongly supported the Dow Law. Many Republicans feared that the morals of their fellow Ohioans were in decline during the late 1880s. This was partly due to the growth of large cities, like Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Toledo, as well as due to industrialization. Thousands of Ohioans left careers in agriculture to take positions in factories and related industries. After working grueling hours, many of these people spent their limited time off in bars. Corrupt politicians and city bosses used bars to secure support from the working class. Many Republicans also feared the large number of immigrants migrating to Ohio, believing that these people were alcoholics and generally immoral. By limiting alcohol's availability, Foraker and other Republicans hoped to instill good moral values into their fellow Ohioans.

Many Ohioans opposed the Dow Law. Numerous brewers and bar owners were especially agitated with the law, as the tax increased the price of their product. As prices climbed for alcohol, fewer Ohioans purchased liquor. Numerous Cincinnati residents, largely from German backgrounds, owned breweries and objected to the Dow Law. This became especially true in 1888, when the state legislature increased the tax on liquor traffic to 250 dollars per saloon owner per year. Numerous Cincinnati residents formed the "League for the Preservation of Citizens' Rights" to protest the increased tax. Their protest became known as the "Saloon-Keepers' Rebellion." The league succeeded in unseating Foraker as governor in the gubernatorial election of 1889. James Campbell, the new governor, also passed legislation concerning alcohol, prohibiting minors from visiting saloons and banning the sale of alcohol in brothels. The Dow Law, however, remained in effect. By 1906, the state legislature had raised the tax to one thousand dollars per year.

See Also


  1. Clark, Norman. Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition. New York, NY: Norton, 1976.  
  2. Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York, NY: Putnam, 1973.  
  3. Pegram, Thomas R. Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800-1933. N.p.: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 1999.