Prohibition (2011)
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A Nation of Drunkards 

The 19th century was a period of growth both for alcoholic beverages and the temperance movement. Washingtonian societies - made up of men who had taken a pledge to forgo all alcoholic ... See full summary »


Ken Burns, Lynn Novick


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Coyote ... Self - Narrator
Michael Lerner Michael Lerner ... Self - Historian
Daniel Okrent ... Self - Writer
Pete Hamill ... Self - Writer
Catherine Gilbert Murdock Catherine Gilbert Murdock ... Self - Historian
Martin Marty Martin Marty ... Self - Theologian
Noah Feldman Noah Feldman ... Self - Legal Scholar
Jack Roche Jack Roche ... Self - Resident of Chicago
William Leuchtenburg William Leuchtenburg ... Self - Historian
Philip Bosco ... Reader (voice)
Patricia Clarkson ... Eliza Hackett (voice)
Kevin Conway Kevin Conway ... Reader (voice)
Blythe Danner ... Reader (voice)
Tom Hanks ... Reader (voice)
Jeremy Irons ... Reader (voice)


The 19th century was a period of growth both for alcoholic beverages and the temperance movement. Washingtonian societies - made up of men who had taken a pledge to forgo all alcoholic beverage - sprang up across the country. Women were often excluded from these groups and so formed their own. The women's crusade of 1873 was essentially a general strike by women who brought business to a halt. Their protest spread to 911 communities in 37 territories. However no laws had been changed and within a few years, saloons were back in business. In 1879, Frances E. Willard became the head of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which she would lead for 19 years.It became a huge social welfare organization with 45 departments dealing with many issues other than temperance. Carrie Nation and her home defenders army started closing saloons in Kansas but it too failed to change laws. By the turn of the 20th century, there were some 300,000 saloons in America. Saloons were not only social ... Written by garykmcd

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Did You Know?


[first lines]
Title Card: Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits. Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky. It is the prohibition that makes anything precious. - Mark Twain
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Features Ten Nights in a Bar Room (1910) See more »


King Porter Stomp
Written by Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton
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User Reviews

An exceptional start...
6 June 2012 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

This is the latest documentary series from Ken Burns--the docu-god for Public Broadcasting. Not surprisingly, with his amazing reputation for perfection, he was able to once again get many of America's top actors to provide their voice talents to the shows--such as Tom Hanks, Sam Waterston and Blythe Danner. And, like so many PBS documentaries, Peter Coyote narrates more than capably.

Episode One is a great start to the series. It is about the movement that began in the mid-19th century to limit alcohol use. Then, like many movements, it morphs into a much more extreme movement--to stop ALL alcohol use. The history of this movement is really interesting and discusses all the many factors that, by the end of the episode, resulted in a Constitutional Amendment banning alcohol. Overall, this was a very educational and interesting episode from start to finish. Well-crafted and worth seeing.

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Release Date:

2 October 2011 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Florentine Films, WETA See more »
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