Spirited: Prohibition in America

In a tumultuous era spanning 13 years, Americans could no longer manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicating beverages. Prohibition was now a part of the Constitution, holding the same status as freedom of speech and the abolition of slavery. Ratified in 1919, the 18th Amendment stirred up a passionate and sometimes volatile debate between “wets” and “drys” that will forever cement Prohibition’s place in history.

Spirited: Prohibition in America brings visitors back to this period of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and real-life legends, such as Al Capone and Carry Nation.

Adapted from the National Constitution Center’s flagship exhibition, Spirited explores the history of Prohibition, from the dawn of the temperance movement to the unprecedented repeal of a constitutional amendment in 1933. What made the country go “dry” and how did America change during this period in history? Visitors to Spirited will learn about the amendment process, the role of liquor in American culture, the cultural revolution of the roaring ’20s, and how liquor laws vary from state to state today.

The morality and illegalization of liquor split American opinion and created a subculture of rampant criminality. Organized crime grew from localized enterprises to a national network for manufacturing, distribution, and sales of alcohol. The issue catalyzed a number of federal regulations and the passing of the Volstead Act, but little resources were provided for enforcement. Spirited draws on histories told from both sides of the law. Through strong visual and interactive elements, the exhibition demonstrates how America went from a nation drowning in liquor in the 1800s, to campaigns of temperance, and the upswing and downfall of outlawing prohibition.

The exhibition surveys the inventive and ingenious ways lawmakers and the American public responded to Prohibition. Legal provisions for sacramental wine, medicinal alcohol, and the preservation of fruit and the efforts of breweries to stay in business led to popularization of products such as “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine,” “near beer,” and Coca-Cola. Visitors will learn how transportation networks and clever disguises were used to run liquor from state to state, how speakeasies gave way to the popularization of jazz, and the Charleston dance craze.

Spirited features semi-immersive environments that encompass the sights, sounds, and experiences of this fascinating period in American history. Hosting venues will receive educational and public programming materials that outline ideas for interactive workshops on “speakeasy slang,” ’20s-themed socials, speaker suggestions for topics, such as the women’s suffrage movement, and lesson plans on today’s battle with drugs and alcohol.

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Spirited: Prohibition in America is touring June 2014–May 2019.

This exhibition is fully booked. Please inquire about being added to its waiting list.

Contact: MoreArt@maaa.org or (800) 473-3872, ext. 208

  • June 16–August 11, 2014 Living History Farms
    Urbandale, IA
  • September 1–October 20, 2014 Tampa Bay History Center
    Tampa, FL
  • November 10, 2014–January 7, 2015 Butler County History Museum/Kansas Oil Museum
    El Dorado, KS
  • January 28–March 16, 2015 Panola College
    Carthage, TX
  • April 6–May 25, 2015 Wyandotte County Historical Society & Museum
    Bonner Springs, KS
  • June 16–August 11, 2015 William F. Laman Public Library
    North Little Rock, AR
  • September 1–October 20, 2015 Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum
    Wichita, KS
  • November 10, 2015–January 7, 2016 Museum of History and Art
    Ontario, CA
  • January 28–March 16, 2016 Brigham City Museum
    Brigham City, UT
  • April 6–May 25, 2016 Rolling Hills Consolidated Library
    St. Joseph, MO
  • June 16–August 11, 2016 West Baton Rouge Museum
    Port Allen, LA
  • September 1–October 20, 2016 Refurbishment
    Kansas City, MO
  • November 10, 2016–January 7, 2017 Fullerton Museum Center
    Fullerton, CA
  • January 28–March 16, 2017 Washakie Museum & Cultural Center
    Worland, WY
  • April 6–May 25, 2017 Park City Museum
    Park City, UT
  • June 16–August 11, 2017 Branigan Cultural Center
    Las Cruces, NM
  • September 1–October 20, 2017 Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research & Studies
    Athens, GA
  • November 10, 2017–January 7, 2018 Coronado Quivira Museum/Rice County
    Lyons, KS
  • January 28–March 16, 2018 Upcountry History Museum
    Greenville, NC
  • April 6–May 25, 2018 Lyman Allyn Art Museum
    New London, CT
  • June 16–August 11, 2018 Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center
    Enid, OK
  • September 1–October 20, 2018 Joliet Area Historical Museum
    Joliet, IL
  • November 10, 2018–January 7, 2019 The High Desert Museum
    Bend, OR
  • January 28–March 16, 2019 The History Museum
    South Bend, IN
  • April 6–May 25, 2019 Chippewa Valley Museum
    Eau Claire, WI

Exhibition Details & Specifications

  • Curated By

    The National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA in collaboration with Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

  • Organized By

    The National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, MO
  • Content

    The exhibition will feature several freestanding units focused on thematic areas; a collection of objects, artifacts, photographs, and paper ephemera; audio/video features; interactive stations, semi-immersive environment settings; and wall-mounted banners and graphics.

  • Duration

    7 Weeks

  • Rental Fee


  • Grant


  • Support

    On-site support is free to the opening venue for every new NEH on the Road exhibition and to first-time hosting venues on a limited basis.

  • Shipping:

    Each exhibitor is responsible for the first $1,000 of the outgoing shipping fee to the next venue; NEH on the Road covers the remainder.

  • Security


  • Square Feet

    Maximum 2,000

  • Number of Crates/Total Weight


  • Insurance

    The exhibition is fully insured by NEH on the Road at no additional expense to you, both while installed and during transit.