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Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Utilizing previous research of American alcohol reform movements, and specifically studies of alcohol in Virginia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this thesis explores the multi-faceted story of Danville, Virginia and its alcohol reform from 1883-1933. Contained within these dates are critical events and stories chronicling the complex history of conflict, and occasional cooperation, regarding alcohol in a southern town. The goal of the thesis, comprised of two parts--a context paper and an accompanying digital exhibit--was to explore how Danville’s community structure and public discourse affected the way alcohol reform was experienced and discussed in the city. Findings indicated that there were three crucial spheres of public discourse which reflected Danville’s experience most during this time-frame, these being religion, politics, and labor. The framework of discussion around alcohol created by Danville’s citizens during this period is particularly illuminating. These arguments which centered on politics, religion, or labor aspects were the most common and the most successful as demonstrated by their constant presence. Drawing upon various primary sources, including newspapers, maps, publications, personal diaries, and city records, the rhetoric of alcohol and alcohol reform is traced through Danville’s past. These three pervasive frameworks demonstrate perceptible shifts in both attitudes of Danville’s citizens and levels of acceptance in regards to alcohol reform, tracing its evolution from a fringe effort to its rise and eventual fall after the repeal of National Prohibition.

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