Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer

By Amy Mittelman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6. BEER: THE MORALE BUILDER, 1942–1952

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes bombed the United States naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. By the next day the country was at war. Twenty three years earlier the country had also engaged in a world war; one result then was national prohibition. On December 8, the brewing industry faced the dilemma of being active patriotic participants in the national war effort while fighting off any attempts to reinstate prohibition.

As early as 1939, the country had begun to be on a war footing and President Roosevelt created several agencies to deal with impending economic mobilization. A few of them, including the Office of Production Management, the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply, and the Supply Priorities and Allocations Board, had the potential to affect the brewing industry as well as other industries. The brewers had become accustomed to a myriad of bureaucracies during Repeal, and the war would not change that.379

The tax on beer increased prior to the United States entry into the war. On July 1, 1940 a $1.00 tax increase became effective; the rate became $6.00 a barrel (31 gallons). Brewers had every reason to believe that taxes would double if America went to war.380 The recently reunified brewers had practice being useful, loyal participants in a war effort. They had been doing that since 1862, and only wished to be able to do it again, if necessary.

379 Richard Polenberg, War and Society: The United States, 1941-1945 (New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1972), 7.

380 New York Times, October 27, 1939, 36; Brewers Almanac, 1940, 36.

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