Dakota Datebook

Home Brew Day

Saturday, March 7, 2009


The passage of the Volstead Act in October 1919 launched national prohibition, as defined by the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This date in 1922 was labeled “Home Brew Day” when 73 North Dakotans were brought up on charges  before District Judge Andrew Miller in his first session of Federal Court in Bismarck.  Most of these men were immigrant farmers charged with making everything from chokecherry wine to moonshine whiskey.  According to the Volstead Act, there was no law against buying or drinking alcohol, but it was illegal for them to manufacture or possess it.

Nearly all pled guilty, with some using interpreters to explain they didn’t know it was illegal to make home brew for their own use – something they’d been doing all their lives.  Most were let go with a ten dollar fine and a stern warning that a second offense would be more costly.

By Merry Helm


The Bismarck Tribune.  7 Mar 1922:1.
United States Constitution.  Amendment XVIII.

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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