This week marks the 88th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in the United States and in today’s issue of CAM Connects we look at the impact that liquor has had on our area.

December 2, 2021

Charles Allan Winter (1869-1942), Man’s Greatest Enemy, c. 1915, oil on canvas. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Linzee Coolidge, 2016 [Acc. #2016.034].

Dear Friends,

As we approach the holiday season and look toward the beginning of 2022, this past year has been one of great collaboration and engagement with each of you. Thank you!

Your collective support is essential, and CAM is excited and committed to invigorating its place as a cultural organization within this community, a resource for all that is local and national in both scope and reach. As friends and members your participation is vital to the Museum, and with many dynamic exhibitions and creative programs planned, please join us even more frequently in the months and years ahead. 

Recently, many of you had a chance to renew your membership and support the 2021 Dotty Brown Annual Fund, for which we are tremendously grateful. Those who might still wish to make a year-end contribution are encouraged to visit this link here. To review the recent CAM 2020 report detailing the last 18 months of the Museum's activities please visit here.

There are lots of things to see and do with CAM during these next weeks, and while this is the final issue of CAM Connects for 2021, we look forward to sharing many new issues in the year ahead. If you haven't visited already, the Cape Ann & Monhegan Island Vistas: Contrasted New England Art Colonies exhibition provides great insights into two key art colonies, and there are many new items available in the CAM shop or by visiting the CAM Online Store. Last but certainly not least, please mark your calendars for CAM's annual Pop! Fitz! Clink! gathering on December 18. Looking forward to seeing you there!

With gratitude and best wishes for an uplifting holiday season and beginning to the New Year. 

Oliver Barker, Director

Imbibing on Cape Ann

This week marks the 88th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in the United States. On December 5, 1933, the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed, making sales and the consumption of alcohol legal again for the first time in almost 13 long years. The resulting mood was no doubt celebratory for a region whose relationship with spirited libations can be traced back many years. In today’s issue of CAM Connects we look at the impact that liquor has had on our area, from the earliest settlers to the Surinam trade, through the persistent push of temperance and into the tumultuous Prohibition years. As the holidays and all of their festive occasions approach, enjoy this look back at the history of imbibing on Cape Ann, and raise a glass to the right to indulge!  

Booze in the Kitchen: A Culinary Convention

The history of alcohol consumption and manufacturing in Massachusetts began with the first English settlers in Plymouth. Packed into the hull of the Mayflower was enough food and beer to last the crew and passengers the entire journey. Like many Europeans, Englishmen drank beer, ale, cider, mead, and wine because the water supply in England was polluted with human and animal waste. Fermented and distilled drinks were safer to drink and provided much needed calories and nutrition. 

Even though the English settlers found pristine springs and waterways in Massachusetts, they began brewing beer from the grain, hops, and malt they brought with them. Apple cuttings and seeds were planted throughout Essex County, and within ten years farming families like the Towne and Perkins families were pressing cider. Unlike beer, hard cider did not require special equipment or ingredients. It was cheap and easy to make; therefore, it quickly replaced beer as the preferred drink in Massachusetts. Mead, brandy, wine, Madeira, sack (sherry), rum, and whiskey were also popular with Essex County residents throughout the 16th through 19th centuries.

Liquor set owned by Capt. Elias Davis (1758-1821), 1805, gilded glass bottles in mahogany case. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Alfred Mansfield Brooks and Ruth Steele Brooks, 1971 [Acc. # 2027.73].

Alcohol not only filled the tankards, punch bowls, and glasses of Cape Ann for over 200 years, it was a staple in kitchens. Records in the Cape Ann Museum's archival collection contain several recipes that required alcohol, including puddings with brandy, soaked cakes in "good white wine" or rum, and syrups and tinctures made from fruits and brandy or rum. Home based alcohol production included beer, mead and a variety of fruit and herbal wines.

Page from handwritten recipe book showing “Receipt for a plumb pudding,” owned by Mrs. E.H. David, c. 1863. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.

Throughout the 19th century, alcohol’s predominance in Cape Ann and Massachusetts life was challenged by the Temperance Movement. As a result, many recipes that traditionally required alcohol made it optional or omitted it altogether. 

Continue reading here.  

The Hatchet Gang Raid

By Gwen Stephenson and Ingrid Brown
Sandy Bay Historical Society

(left) Hatchet Banner, made by Sally Smith Norwood (1805-1890), 1856. Collection of the Sandy Bay Historical Society. Gift of Albert F. Norwood.
(right) Hatchet, belonged to Joseph Griffin (1814-1875). Carried in the hatchet raid of 1856. Griffin’s wife, Eliza, decorated the hatchet with ribbons to draw attention to it. Collection of the Sandy Bay Historical Society. Gift of Mrs. Charles Worthley.

In 1856, a raid occurred in the town of Rockport that became legendary in the annals of Prohibition on Cape Ann and forever emblazoned Hannah Jumper’s name into our local lexicon. Ebenezer Pool, chronicler of Rockport history, noted the event this way:

Tuesday the 8th of July, 1856 was a great day in Rockport. A few days previously many of the women of Rockport had private interviews when they set the time to meet in a body at Market Square at nine o’clock a.m. of the 8th day of July for the purpose of visiting all the places where spiritous liquors were sold.

Pool’s recounting is considerably less colorful than the version of events that have been passed down to us today which is based on recollections made long after the fact. So, what exactly did happen that day? And who was this Hannah Jumper who led her “Hatchet Gang” on a daring raid of Rockport’s speakeasies?   

Continue reading here. 

And for more on the Temperance era, visit our online exhibition, Unfolding Histories.

Blackburn’s Bar

Margaret Fitzhugh Browne, Captain Howard Blackburn, the Lone Voyager, 1928. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. Gift of the Master Mariners Association, Gloucester, 2012 [Acc. #2012.49].

“Among nautical men Blackburn’s was one of the best-known saloons on the North Atlantic seaboard, a favorite hangout for fishermen from Newfoundland to New York whenever they touched at Gloucester. The proprietor was generally behind the bar from the hour it opened in the morning until closing time late at night. Business would increase as the day wore on, and by the late afternoon and evening the saloon presented a picture that has remained one of the nostalgic symbols of the era—the long mahogany bar crowded elbow to elbow with roughly dressed fishermen, shifting their feet in the fresh sawdust on the floor; the glistening brass spittoons; the famous paintings on the wall, darkly ominous beyond the smoke-dimmed glow of the gas lights—all of it presided by the commanding figure of the owner with his neatly parted hair and handlebar mustache. He stood behind the bar, cigar clenched in the thumb stub of one hand, the other crooked on his hip.”

Joseph E. Garland, Lone Voyager: The Extraordinary Adventures of Howard Blackburn, Hero Fisherman of Gloucester, p. 72-73. New York: Touchstone, 2000.   

Click here to read on about the famed fisherman’s fight to maintain a saloon in a town that flip flopped on the issue of temperance nearly every year. 

(left) Nils Lund (1868-1952) in front of Blackburn's bar. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Lillian Lund-Files [Acc. #2002.38.03].
(right) Howard Blackburn’s second saloon and home at 289-91 Main St. Designed by architect Ezra Phillips in 1900. Photo c.1910. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA

Rum Running

Rum runner Arethusa in Bahamas, c. 1922. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA. Gift of Erik Ronnberg, Jr., 2021 [Acc. #2021.024].

Long before the Prohibition era, the rum industry flourished on Cape Ann during the 19th century when trade with the slave colonies in Surinam and the West Indies was at its height. Local sea captains exchanged dried fish for molasses that was produced on sugar plantations with an enslaved workforce and brought the molasses back to Gloucester to be distilled into rum. Find more information about the ties between Cape Ann’s rum industry and slavery here and here.

During Prohibition, Cape Ann’s involvement in rum running was similar to that of other coastal communities. The area’s ready supply of sea-worthy vessels, experienced mariners who knew the coastline and surrounding waters in great detail even in the dark of night, and dire economic conditions coupled with the irresistible lure of high adventure created an atmosphere perfectly suited for capitalizing upon this clandestine activity.

The term “rum running” refers to smuggling by sea whereas “bootlegging” is used to define such illicit pursuits on land. Despite the name, this type of trafficking was not limited to rum but included all varieties of alcohol. A perusal through CAM’s Library and Archives from this period reveals countless articles and personal accounts that chronicle just how commonplace this pastime was in our region.

To learn more about rum running, continue reading here and visit CAM’s Library and Archives in person where you’ll find such intriguing resources as “Cigar Joe” Frontiero’s reminiscences on his own rum running escapades. ■  

Pop! Fitz! Clink!

And so… in honor of Fitz Henry Lane's birthday on December 19th, and in celebration of the end of Prohibition, join us and raise a sparkling beverage of your choice to toast the season – cheers! 

Pop Fitz Clink

Reservations required. CAM members sign up online at Pop! Fitz! Clink! - Events at the Cape Ann Museum, email, or call (978) 283-0455 x120.