Pre-Prohibition Liquor Licenses Among Historical Society Director's Favorite Items

A liquor license issued in Carver County in 1913, one of many liquor licenses donated to the Carver County Historical Society by the city of Victoria.
Historical society director names her favorite artifact.

Choosing a favorite artifact can be compared to picking a favorite child. The Carver County Historical Society holds about 15,000 photos and about as many items. Some of the most important items are not impressive to look at—it is the story they tell that makes them stand out.

Several months ago, the city of Victoria donated a number of old liquor licenses issued by the city. Included in the collection were U.S. Internal Revenue Special Tax Stamps, issued to the liquor establishments. The dates on the licenses mirror those of the tax stamps (1901-1919).

The backstory involves Prohibition and the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; just months after Victoria sold a liquor license for $500 ($7,600 in today’s money). The amendment (1920-1933) prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import or export of alcoholic beverages. Upon ratification of the amendment by the states, Congress voted its approval in October 1919 and enacted it into law as the National Prohibition Act of 1920.

On April 7, 1933, the 21st Amendment went into effect, repealing the 18th but allowing those states that wished to keep Prohibition in effect to do so. Minnesota voted to remain dry until January 6, 1934.

Wendy Peterson Biorn is the executive director of the Carver County Historical Society.
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