Wyoming Prohibition Law Went Into Affect 100 Years Ago Today
Today marks an interesting Wyoming anniversary. 100 years ago, on July 1, 1919, prohibition began in the Cowboy State, several months before a federal prohibition law went into effect.
Wyoming was the last state in the region to ban alcohol. While the temperance movement was popular in most of eastern Wyoming, the newly enacted law was openly flaunted in Natrona County and many areas of western Wyoming. The towns of Kemmerer and Rock Springs became regional hubs for bootleggers and organized crime. Coal miners in Kemmerer produced enough moonshine to supply the entire mountain west region. Before long, the tiny town earned the nickname "Little Chicago".
While miners in Kemmerer were distilling whiskey, Italian immigrants in Rock Springs were brewing wine. Train cars would deliver shipments of grapes from California to a factory on Front Street, where they were used to make the city's signature "Dago Red".
Over time, prohibition fell out of public favor. By 1926, many politicians who had campaigned for temperance were voted out of office, including Wyoming's first female governor Nellie Tayloe Ross. By the time federal prohibition was repealed in 1933, most towns in the Cowboy State had several establishments that had been openly defying the laws for years.