[00:00:00] Wednesdays broadcasting here from my house in Hinesburg and I hope everybody is doing as well as you can be at this rather extraordinary moment.
[00:00:15] Today's special guest is Susan McClure, who is the director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. We're going to talk a little bit about her work at the museum.
[00:00:27] But also about some research that she is very engaged with related to prohibition and what it might mean for Vermont's craft beer industry.
[00:00:38] So I'd like to welcome Susan now to our research live Wednesdays.
[00:00:46] Hi. Hi, Richard. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:52] So, you know, bear with us for any technology challenges up there, and I should tell you, Susan, if for any reason you drop, we found that if you refresh, it comes back. So we'll just start by asking how you and your family are doing right now at this unbelievable moment.
[00:01:17] Yeah, thanks for checking about that. We were doing OK. We live on the other side of Hinesburg, so we live pretty far from lots of other people. We have a lot of space. The biggest challenge for us is juggling our 2 year old and two adults with full time jobs. So I cannot guarantee that he won't make an appearance in the next half hour. But if he does. His name is Jack. He loves videoconferences now. We're good. We feel really grateful about our situation out here, but it's a big change for everyone. And Lake Champlain Maritime Museum staff are all working from home. And our priority, as everyone's, I hope is, is keeping our staff and ourselves and our communities safe.
[00:02:00] Yeah. You know, ironically, Susan and I both live in the same town were on either sides of the valley, so to speak.
[00:02:10] I think my side probably got more snow today.
[00:02:14] You have been I forget maybe it's two years or less, though. You've been the director of the museum.
[00:02:22] Yeah. Just a little over a year, almost a year and a half. So it still feels new, but I know more than I did a year ago, but I still have a lot to learn. The organization's been around for about 35 years, so there's lots of our own history as we're trying to tell other stories and history. And it's a great team of people. And I really enjoy the work.
[00:02:42] So let's do just a minute on what the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is, what your mission is. Obviously, you're there near Vergennes, but anything you want us to know about.
[00:02:53] Sure. So the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum connects people to our region's history, ecology and archeology through hands on experiences. So we like to say that we work in the water, by the water and underwater. And I think we have an image of our campus, which is a three acre campus on the shores of Lake Champlain, just about seven miles outside of Vermont. And that's the that's the aerial shot. That is one of the images. We have lots of buildings with exhibits in them that talk about ecology and history of our region. We also have a working waterfronts and multiple replica boats and we get thousands of students rowing on Lake Champlain every year through our longboats, rowing and boat building programs. So our mission is really all about connecting with our past. Learning more about it through archeology and then taking what we learned about our past and empowering people to build a stronger future for our community and for Lake Champlain.
[00:04:06] Thank you for that overview. I've been there many times and it's just an extraordinary place. The boats, you know, the reenactments, the boat that you have, this has gone on high speeds on Lake Champlain on the ice is just stunning.
[00:04:25] Yeah. We have well, we have a lot of boats, as you can imagine. But we usually we really start with the people. The relationship between the people, the land and the water. So sometimes that story is told through boats. Sometimes it's told through stories of individuals who have lived here over time. Sometimes it's told through stories today. And actually this year in 2020, when we are allowed to open to the public, which right now we're planning for that to be July 1st. But that is in many ways in the hands of the state of Vermont and the CDC. So we're following all the guidance that we are given. So our plan for this year was to mark the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, and we were doing that by looking at stories of women's leadership in the Champlain Valley. So suffrage was, of course, really important to the story of women in America. But women were leading in the Champlain Valley before suffrage and after suffrage. So our research team has been doing some pretty amazing research on female ships' captains and ferry captains. So some of the earliest ferries on Lake Champlain were captained by women. Actually, the earliest steamboat captain, the earliest woman to ever receive a steamboat license to captain a steam boat was Philomene Daniels from Vergennes. So we have lots of great Vermont stories to connect to the history of women and leadership in the United States.
[00:05:48] And before we turn to your specific research, just a moment on how you are trying to reflect this moment to make your work available. I know it's an ongoing project, but I'm sure it's something you think about all the time you and the people who work with you do.
[00:06:06] So our physical campus is closed and our in-person programs are canceled, but we are open. We're continuing to do our research and our work and we're continuing to share that. And this is giving us an opportunity to be creative in the ways that we do that. So just this week, our education team is hosting a virtual spring break camp for 10 to 15 students who are getting to explore the Lake Champlain watershed virtually through the magic of Zoom. And we're sharing more stories online for our social media channels through our website. Our blog has become really active recently. It's a great way for our staff to share some of their research. So if you haven't ever seen it, you can go to our website and read our stories on our blog. And our goal is to really be here for our community when this is behind us. We know that people will need to connect. They'll need to get out on the water. They'll need to connect with each other, with their history, with nature. And that's what we can do in the future. And until we can do that in person, we are able to provide ways to do that virtually in an ongoing way.
[00:07:17] You know, it's really amazing how all these organizations have been so nimble to me. And it's particularly challenging. I know for cultural institutions where part of what you do is people go there and feel and touch and are part of these things.
[00:07:32] Yeah, it has been hard that, you know, I think a lot of the field of public history is about bringing people together, often strangers to have conversations and to grapple with complex issues in person. And that's kind of at the core and it's at the core of my professional work that I've done for my entire career. And having to shift that is very challenging. But if there's one thing about museum professionals, we love a good challenge. We're super creative. And I know both the Maritime Museum, my other museum colleagues in Vermont and around the country are really rising to the occasion.
[00:08:07] So I should remind our viewers that if you have questions or comments for Susan at any point in the next 10 or so minutes, please just post them on our Facebook page where you're viewing this and we will try to get to them. And of course, we'll post a link about how you can learn more about what the museum is doing.
[00:08:27] But I want to turn to Susan's research because she first called me, I think, with this idea of doing some kind of a big event around prohibition and the laws and regulations and changing ways we think about alcohol, which goes way back in Vermont and has had all kinds of impacts as people have talked about. So I'm going to let Susan take us through that story a little bit. Her own personal research. And for this to work best, I'll go away and we'll bring up some of the slides and images that she has. So take us into that story a little bit, Susan, where ever you want to start.
[00:09:11] OK. Well, thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about it. I love talking about prohibition. And there's a lot to say. I think when people think about the story or prohibition in Vermont or across the country, they think of bootleggers and gangsters and, you know, people driving through the night. And it's all kind of exciting. But really to understand how we got to have federal prohibition in 1920, you really have to start way earlier. And actually in Vermont, we were the second state in the country to have statewide prohibition. We started that party in 1853. But even before that, you have to look back even earlier to the founding era of our country to really understand how much people were drinking. So there's an important historian named William Werbach who did a very in-depth study of how much people were drinking. And he determined that American peak drinking really peaked in 1830. And in 1830, every man, woman and child was drinking five gallons of spirits and fifteen gallons of cider every year. So obviously, the kids weren't drinking the same amount as the adults, but he had to per capita it. So people were drinking a lot. And really a lot of the founding of our country is based in consumption of alcohol. Water was often not safe to drink. It was all pre germ theory. So people didn't know why their milk made them sick or water made them sick. But your hard cider didn't make you sick and your whiskey didn't make you sick. Whiskey also was a cheaper way to get your green to market. If you were a rural farmer, you actually couldn't transport your grain fast enough to sell it at market before it spolied. But if you made whiskey with it in your backyard, it actually increased in value and it never went bad. At the founding of our country, every state. Also, there was no federally regulated currency. So every state had their own currency and much of it was worthless. So whiskey became kind of a barter currency, especially in rural areas like Vermont. So by 1820, there are actually around 200 distilleries in Vermont's distilling was a really important part of the local economy. And people were drinking heavily. I should mention another historian, Adam Kerlikowski, who wrote a great book on prohibition in Vermont specifically. And if you're interested in this topic, you should definitely read his book and this level of drinking is causing huge problems. By the time you get to the mid eighteen hundreds. There is real societal issues resulting from this. There's, you know, men abandoning their families. There's high rates of domestic abuse. There's financial issues with people drinking away all their money. So in response to this high rate of drinking, there comes a pushback against that. In the mid 19th century, Vermont is the same. This happens across the country as well as Vermont. And what I really dug into in this major research project that my teammate, Matt Harrison and I did last fall, which I should say was funded by generous support from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership. So what we dug into was trying to figure out how did Vermont go from having almost a distillery for every single town, sometimes more to being the second state in the country to have a statewide prohibition. And what it came down to really is that there were three major things that all were happening in the middle of the 19th century that led to statewide prohibition. And those three things were an increase in religious fervor there was lots of new conversion events. Religion was often tied to not drinking. There were some racist fears about new immigrants arriving in North America and bringing their drinking cultures with them. And there was the canal system. So I work at a maritime museum so I can pretty much make any topic about canals. But this one really is about canals. The canal system really changed the entire way of life here in Vermont and in the Champlain Valley. Suddenly, people who were previously really isolated had access to new markets, new ideas, transportation. So starting in 1823, when the Champlain Canal opens, the canal connects Lake Champlain to the Hudson River. And then in 1825, when the Erie Canal is finished, you can then sail from Burlington Harbor all the way to Lake Erie into the rest of the country or to New York City and out into into the ocean from there. So when the canals change, how we can move goods, it stops being cost efficient, cost effective to make whiskey in your backyard. It actually becomes cheaper to make wiskey in places like western Pennsylvania and western New York and then just ship it on the canal system. So when my personal economics is not based in growing my own grain in my backyard, It becomes easier when someone comes in with a temperance song or with some kind of other group gathering to get me excited about not drinking.
[00:14:32] So the three big things that kind of lead to the mid 19th century prohibition is the idea the canal changes, religion and racist ideas about new immigrants. One of the images that you should have is of a temperance song that we found in the Library of Congress collection that was actually called the Green Mountain Yankee and temperance
[00:14:58] songs become a way for people to spread this message, even in rural areas. So this song, The Green Mountain Yankee, actually talks about a guy who travels from Vermont to Boston to go to a market, but then to sell some of his goods. He's a farmer. But then he stumbles upon conversion events and he talks about being the Green Mountain Yankee from Vermont and learning about the ills of drinking when he goes to the big city. And this divide between rural and big city is another really important change from the mid 19th century that lead to some of these changes about drinking. I was going to switch to talking about temperance, but I want to make sure Richard doesn't have any questions for me.
[00:15:57] Ill keep going, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't rambling.
[00:16:00] I love your images. You know that are going to come like these old posters and things that you found, I think as, you know, take us through the story when we think of prohibition in the lake. I know you'll cover this, but this idea of smuggling and stuff was not quite as dramatic as people think about it as they get there.
[00:16:21] But I think what we'll do is let you just keep talking for a little bit more those images, and then I'll come back and we'll see also if any of our listeners have any questions or comments for you.
[00:16:33] OK, then I'll keep at it. So one really interesting thing about temperance across the country. Also true in Vermont is that it's really a women led issue. It's one of the first chances that women get to have public political agency. So one of the images is from the Vermont Historical Society, and it's actually a Women's Christian Temperance Union meeting in Newfane Vermont from 1910. And I love this image. You just looking at these women. They are.
[00:17:06] I don't know if I can say badass on Facebook live, but that's what they are, right? They're also dedicated. They're serious. They've come together as a group and they really want to change their society. And this is the way they're gonna do it. So there are big big connections between the temperance movement and suffrage. So as women are getting politically engaged through trying to stop drinking, they realize that they would have a lot more power if they had the right to vote. Yeah. That's a great close up there. A simple. So especially in Vermont, this link between women's suffrage and temperance is very strong. So Vermont starts with statewide prohibition in 1850.
[00:17:58] I should actually back up even more in 1844. Vermont starts with what's called the local option so towns can actually vote on whether they want to have allowed drinking in their town.
[00:18:10] Allow sale consumption publicly. That kind of thing. There is another image from the Bennington Museum that is that town sign there that starts with grandel.
[00:18:24] So that I love because it is the town of Grandville, which is there's a little hands and an arrow pointing that says Wet. There's the town of Pawlet, which is dry. And then Wells, which it actually says damp on it. So frequently Vermont towns changed if they were gonna be wet or dry, sometimes every other year, if they would vote at a town meeting of how many liquor licenses they wanted to have if they wanted to have any at all. So that starts in 1844. 1853, the statewide prohibition passes. And actually what it says is that you still could make alcohol for your own consumption as long as you did not provide it to what they called, quote, "a habitual drunkard" or as if it led to anyone's intoxication. So one of the interesting things looking at the history of prohibition and temperance in Vermont in our modern context is especially around this 1853 law. So it said you could make it yourself. You could have it, but you couldn't sell it or buy it. And anyone following other legalization debates in Vermont. That's kind of a similar story. And it's not even an echo. Sometimes it's just repeating exactly what was in the law when we're talking about modern legalization efforts. It's just a really interesting way to think about how some of these stories change or don't change over time. And actually what ends up ending prohibition in Vermont is, well, there's a number of factors. But in 1902, Percival Clement runs for governor.
[00:19:58] There's also a poster image of one of his campaign posters. So he runs for governor on an anti-temperance platform. So he wants to end prohibition in the states or at least have it go back to local control. So he gives a pretty rousing speech that's about how temperance and prohibition is anti personal freedom. He says that statewide prohibition is your neighbor trying to enforce their morals on you. That what your neighbor wants to do is OK for them, but they shouldn't be able to force you to do it. And he actually loses that governor's race. He becomes the governor later. But he loses that governor's race. But his case is so compelling in many ways that it kind of turns the tide against prohibition in the states. And then there's a statewide referendum that actually ends statewide prohibition, but then returns it to local control. And also this word, local control, something that is very relevant in Vermont today.
[00:21:07] Vermonters have always wanted their town to make decisions about their town. And prohibition and alcohol consumption is no different. So by the time we get to the 1920s and federal prohibition, in some ways, Vermont is kind of over it. So they've had prohibition for a long time. But when you have federal prohibition, you've taken away the idea of local control and you created new hurdles that are really impressed from the federal level.
[00:21:36] Amazing story and there is so much more here I know we're only going to scratch the surface.
[00:21:42] I know I feel like I'm bumbling a little because I like have so much more to say and I'm trying to limit myself.
[00:21:48] You're good and I should say. We just completed, and some of our students podcast with Susan where we spend fifteen or twenty minutes kind of talking about these issues and bringing in some external audio and some sound effects and stuff. It's pretty cool. So we'll post that when we post this video too. Can you take us just, you know, zip us to now in the relationship between labeling on or in the beer craft industry? Because somehow I know you draw a to line today.
[00:22:21] Yeah. So I I kind of I like talking about 19th century prohibition, but there was federal prohibition. And when federal prohibition ends in 1933, the entire country kind of redoes alcohol laws as we understand them. So every state then gets to decide their own regulations around alcohol production and sale. So what is created after prohibition is what's called a three tiered system. So you have the person who makes the alcoholic beverage, the person who distributes it, and then the person who sells it directly to the consumer. And those three tiers still today are how alcohol is sold in Vermont.
[00:22:58] And it's a complicated system.
[00:23:01] And that, you know, has changed over the past five or so years. But that three tier system is a direct result of prohibition. The other important thing that was one of the many unintended consequences of prohibition was that it actually wipes out an entire generation of skill sets in producing alcohol. So, you know, like we said in the early eighteen hundreds, there were two hundred distilleries in Vermont. They all go away after prohibition and then no one knows how to do it. And the same is true with beer and cider. So it actually takes up until the 1970s for individuals well actually I should even say homebrewing continues to be illegal until the 1970s. Jimmy Carter had to sign legislation to change or sign an executive order to change that. So when you've kind of lost from the 1920s up to the 1970s, a generation of knowledge. So that knowledge needs to be rebuilt after prohibition. And Vermont ends up being one of the places where that knowledge becomes rebuilt and then shared without throughout the country. And now Vermont, of course, is known as being a real mecca of craft beer.
[00:24:10] It's amazing how these things these have these true lines, we should say, today, in this moment.
[00:24:16] Alcohol is considered essential. I mean, all the liquor stores are open.
[00:24:20] Do you have any thoughts on that or?
[00:24:22] I mean, the best thing about that is how it's actually in one hundred year chunks. So if you look at the alcohol consumption in 1820, it was extremely high. So it's like a vital part of society and 1820. Fast forward a hundred years to 1920. That's when prohibition starts. You can't have it at all. Fast forward another hundred years to twenty twenty and suddenly it's an essential service. So in some ways we've made like a full circle on the essential nature of alcohol to society. Yeah, it is. It's really interesting. I mean, the same is true in California of marijuana distribution and sales too. So I think there's all of these things that can be considered vices. Often as soon as you open the floodgates, it's really hard to close them again.
[00:25:11] Yeah. And then and then the research is showing. And all these connections . But there's something about alcohol consumption that's always been a problem.
[00:25:21] Totally, and I think that's one thing that's important to not gloss over is especially when you look back at the early 1800s consumption levels. It was not good there were real issues around it. And again, women. Women in particular, I think. And the temperance movement often gets a bad rap as being kind of down or negative women who just want to take away our man's beer. And that's not what it was, it was women who were experiencing hardship, getting together to give themselves political agency and then to make a change in their community. And actually, you know, temperance, really, it works by if the goal is to decrease alcohol consumption. Temperance in the 19th century totally works by the 1880s. There's about half as much drinking or less that's happening across the country. And some of the you know, we still obviously have not solved the issue of domestic violence and financial control and gender dynamics at all. But it's makes improvements and by the end of the 19th century.
[00:26:25] I love the way connected with the women's suffrage movement, too.
[00:26:30] I was going to say the story, I can't not share is back to our back to our governor Percival Clement. He is actually governor. He does end up being governor. He's governor when the amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote in 1920 and Vermont could have been the final state to ratify the amendment. But he actually refuses to call the call the legislature back into session to vote on it because he was worried that if women got the right to vote, they would bring back prohibition and Temperance and Vermont, because he had seen in the eighteen hundreds and in his election attempt from 1902. The power that women's groups had. And he was worried that if women got the right to vote legally, Temperance would come back and that his political career would have ended. So Vermont, we lost that opportunity to be the final signer. Of course, we do get enough states to ratify. So it does pass at the federal level. But I think that's such an interesting connection to that 19th century story.
[00:27:37] Susan, it's been so nice to talk to you.
[00:27:40] Well thank you so much for having me and all the things, the great things that happen in the museum and your hopes that in July you might be open for the public.
[00:27:50] But in the meantime, there's lots of ways to engage with the museum remotely.
[00:27:56] Yes, there are. Through our website, through our social media channels and you know our amazing team is constantly thinking up new ways. So stay tuned for new ways. And we look forward to seeing folks back in the museum and out on the water this summer or just virtually in whatever way we can to stay connected.
[00:28:16] So I want to thank everybody for joining us, research live Wednesdays. Something that we're trying.
[00:28:22] If you have ideas for guests or hosts or any way you'd like to engage with us, please let me know. We've had a couple of comments and we will post this, of course, for people who would like to see it.
[00:28:33] And the podcast we did with Susan, which is terrific up some students. I want to thank Brianna, who's behind the scenes here, hardworking UVM student making this happen. And next week, a week from now, we're going to talk to Sheri Morse, a social geographer at the University of Vermont, about rural and why people stay in Vermont. Some of her research is about that and also some ideas around re-ruralization that is in this moment. Are there people who are thinking more about
[00:29:09] Moving back to rural areas. So thanks again, Susan. Thank you so much.
[00:29:15] I'll see you some day in person. Thanks, All right. Thanks.
[00:29:20] Bye bye.