In December 1918, Nevada’s Supreme Court certified the state’s vote and prohibition became Nevada law as of midnight on Dec. 17, 1918.
As a result, the state went dry a month before it ratified the 18th Amendment on Jan. 16, 1919.
In the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly in 1976, author Harold Smith wrote,
Early Nevada legislatures regarded liquor, at least from a legislative standpoint, as a means of revenue. They established a system with few restrictions. Saloons and liquor traffic became an accepted part of the social fabric, especially in mining areas. Mark Twain, writing about life in the late nineteenth century, said: In Nevada for a time, the lawyer, the editor, the banker, the chief desperado, the chief gambler, and the saloon-keeper, occupied the same level in society, and it was the highest. The cheapest and easiest way to become an influential man and be looked up to by the community at large was to stand behind a bar, wear a cluster- diamond pin, and sell whiskey. I am not sure but that the saloon-keeper held a shade higher rank than any other member of society.
Concerning life in the mining area of Virginia City, Twain wrote:
There were military companies, fire companies, brass bands, banks, hotels, theaters, ‘hurdy gurdy houses,’ wide-open gambling places, political pow-wows, civic processions, street fights, murders, inquests, riots, a whiskey mill every fifteen steps, … and some talk of building a church …
Twain’s description may be exaggerated, but it does illustrate the importance of liquor in contemporary social life.”
However, attitudes greatly changed over the intervening years. The Pioche Record carried this story in the Oct. 25, 1918 edition.
ALL PIOCHE SALOONS CLOSED LAST WEDNESDAY MORNING
The story read:
Bone-dry prohibition went into effect throughout the state of Nevada at 12:01 Wednesday morning [Oct. 23]. As the official announcement could not be made in time to be effective Monday night, Acting Governor Sullivan gave the saloons one day’s grace.
Five Pioche saloons were put out of business by the announcement, all of which have been closed since Wednesday morning.
Arthur L. Hyatt of Hyatt’s bar will leave today for Portland, where he owns property and will make his future home.
Joe Oseletto of the Wyoming bar will remain in Pioche, but is undecided as to what line of business he will enter.
Ralph Martello of the Oregon bar will conduct a soft drink emporium. His place is now open.
Joe Powers of the Alamo bar has also decided to embark in a soft drink venture and has let a contract to A. L. Burgin to decorate the interior of the Alamo.
Annibale Grassescke of the Tuscano bar has disposed of his equipment and will leave Pioche next week, destination undecided.”
After the Volstead Act took effect nationwide in January 1920, everyone knows what the end result was until the Act was repealed by Congress on Dec. 5, 1933. The cure was worse than the disease. Seldom has a law been more flagrantly violated.
Alcohol continued to be produced, and more of it. Women, to whom saloons had previously been off limits, trooped into speakeasies, where they learned to consume a Prohibition invention, the cocktail.
Hundreds of ships were anchored just beyond the three-mile limit along both the East and West Coasts dispensing liquor to anyone to come out by rowboat, skiff, or speedboat.
Good ol’ American ingenuity knew no bounds during Prohibition as people sought other ways to tote liquor around without getting arrested.
And it all started just a bit early in Pioche, Oct. 23, 1918.