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A moonshine still from the artifact collection at the North Carolina Museum of History is featured in the exhibition American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa. IMAGE CREDIT: The National Constitution Center


The era of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and real-life legends like Al Capone and Carry Nation come vividly to life in the world-premiere exhibition American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa. Spanning the dawn of the temperance movement in the early 1800s, through the Roaring ’20s, to the unprecedented repeal of a constitutional amendment during the Great Depression, this first comprehensive exhibition about Prohibition explores America’s most colorful and complex constitutional hiccup. American Spirits opened Oct. 19 and will run through April 28, 2013, at the Center, before embarking on a nationwide tour that will extend into 2016.

The exhibition features a moonshine still and a 1908 North Carolina Temperance Medal, on loan from the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. A Craven County farmer made the copper still and used it during the 1930s. At some point, the still was buried in the sandy soil of eastern North Carolina. Years later, it was moved to a barn and remained there until 1999, when it was donated to the museum.

American Spirits was created by the National Constitution Center and curated by Daniel Okrent, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Okrent collaborated with filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick on the documentary Prohibition, which aired on PBS in fall 2011.

“Prohibition left an indelible mark on America, redefining the role of the federal government and leaving its mark on everything from our personal habits to our tax policies,” said Exhibition Curator Daniel Okrent. “And though it may have been a wild card in our constitutional history, it came into being through the invention and deployment of political tactics and strategies still in play today.”

The 5,000-square-foot exhibition features more than 120 rare artifacts, including:

  • Original ratification copies of the 18th and 21st Amendments
  • A hatchet used by Carry Nation during one of her barroom-smashing raids
  • A Prohibition Bureau Badge issued by the Department of Justice in 1931
  • Temperance propaganda, including pamphlets, school lesson manuals, speeches and hymnals
  • The phone used by Roy Olmstead, the defendant in the landmark Olmstead v. United States wiretapping case, to run his bootlegging empire
  • Flapper dresses, cocktail couture, and other women’s and men’s fashion accessories from the 1920s
  • Original home manufacturing items used for making moonshine, home-brewed beer, and other illegal and highly potent liquor
  • One of the first crates of Budweiser produced after the “Beer Act,” which passed in April 1933 and changed the legal limit for “intoxicating” beverages to 3.2 percent per volume to allow for the return of beer production

Interactive elements and immersive environments bring to life the sights, sounds and experiences of the time period. Visitors have an opportunity at the end of the exhibition to explore the legacy of Prohibition in today’s regulatory landscape. Displays show why and how laws differ from state to state and how the idea of drinking responsibly has evolved since the 1930s to reflect what we know about alcohol today.

The exhibition will tour in cities across the country through 2016. For a complete schedule, go to


Admission to American Spirits is $17.50 for adults, $16 for seniors and students, and $11 for children ages 4-12. Group rates also are available. Admission to the Center’s main exhibition, The Story of We the People, along with the award-winning theatrical production Freedom Rising, is included. For ticket information, call 215-409-6700 or visit


American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.


For more information about the N.C. Museum of History, go to or call 919-807-7900.

About the National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center is the first and only nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed: the U.S. Constitution. Located on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia, the birthplace of American freedom, the Center illuminates constitutional ideals and inspires active citizenship through a state-of-the-art museum experience, including hundreds of interactive exhibits, films and rare artifacts; must-see feature exhibitions; the internationally acclaimed, 360-degree theatrical production Freedom Rising; and the iconic Signers’ Hall, where visitors can sign the Constitution alongside 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers. As America’s forum for constitutional dialogue, the Center engages diverse, distinguished leaders of government, public policy, journalism and scholarship in timely public discussions and debates. The Center also houses the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, the national hub for constitutional education, which offers cutting-edge civic learning resources both onsite and online. Freedom is calling. Answer it at the National Constitution Center.

About the N.C. Museum of History

The N.C. Museum of History is located at 5 E. Edenton Street in Raleigh. Parking is available in the lot across Wilmington Street. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The Museum of History, within the Division of State History Museums, is part of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. For more information, call 919-807-7900 or visit

About the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported symphony orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council, and the State Archives. Cultural Resources champions North Carolina’s creative industry, which employs nearly 300,000 North Carolinians and contributes more than $41 billion to the state’s economy. To learn more, visit

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