Ohio History Journal

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A Paradox of Prohibition: Election of

Robert J. Bulkley as Senator

from Ohio, 1930






Hail, Hallowed Ohio!

Rich and beautiful state!

Rivers and roads and railways,

And queenly cities and great;

Fertile fields and factories,

Happy homes and health-

M-O-T-H-E-R of Prohibition,

And a s-o-b-e-r Commonwealth!1

The issue of prohibition of the liquor traffic was one that had kept Ohio in turmoil

prior to the enactment of state prohibition and the passage of the Eighteenth

Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, not long after prohibition

became part of the law of the land, the question of its repeal increasingly drew pop-

ular attention. Repeal was an issue that had potent political implications, and the

purpose of this study is to examine it as a political issue in an attempt to determine

its impact upon election results in 1930. The victorious campaign of Democrat

Robert J. Bulkley, running on a "wet" platform for a United States Senate seat from

"dry" Ohio will be the main focus. Several students of Ohio political history have

attributed Bulkley's victory in 1930 primarily to his stand for repeal of national pro-

hibition. However, other and perhaps more important factors can be found that

contributed to his success, and these will be evaluated.2

Early in the 1920's prohibition seemed to be effectively enforced in Ohio. For ex-

ample, H. L. Mencken reported in 1924 that Cleveland "was as dry as the Sahara"

when the Republican National Convention was held there, disappointing everyone

except Calvin Coolidge. But by the end of the decade many observers claimed con-

ditions had changed. One reporter declared that brewing vats and stills were as





1. "Hail, Hallowed Ohio," an Anti-Saloon League Song, The American Issue (Ohio Edition), June 26,

1931, pp. 2-3.

2. Ohio voters approved a state prohibition amendment in 1918. The Eighteenth Amendment and the

Volstead Act (the national law providing for the enforcement of prohibition) were passed in 1919 and

took effect in January 1920.

Mr. Stegh is University Archivist, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.