This week’s Travel Freak’s Wild Wednesday column we’re turning back the clock to the 1920’s when droppers, or hired killers, lit up the streets with Chicago lightning (gunfire). A time when prohibition drove people into speakeasy’s that served up bootleg and white lightning until the copper’s busted the joint. To celebrate this historic event the Indiana State Museum is serving up their own brand of hooch at a special event during the American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition exhibit.


While many folks head south to tour Brown County, Indiana’s arts and boutiques on the weekend, other’s prepare for their football parties. With football season comes plenty of excitement, great food, and brews. Take a moment to appreciate that cold brew while cheering on your favorite teams because about ninety-five years ago it would have been illegal due to Prohibition. That means no wine, beer, or any other type of alcohol. Okay, there was an exception for those who had a doctor’s prescription – really!

Doctors had to use a specific prescription pad to prescribe alcohol, otherwise known as a tonic, for everything from heart disease to anemia ailing adults and children alike. And, instead of going to a liquor store you went to the drugstore to pick up your tonic. Although, the folks in Indiana were out of luck; no doctor’s prescription allowed thanks to the lobbying efforts of Rev. Edward S. Shumaker, the Anti-Saloon League leader. It was his handy work that led the General Assembly to pass the toughest Prohibition law in the nation, Indiana’s Wright “Bone Dry” Law.


(photo via Indiana State Museum and Library Of Congress)

To celebrate this complex and colorful time in America’s history make plans to attend a special Indiana Spirits party on Friday, Oct. 3 at the Indiana State Museum for their new exhibit American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Step back in time, and enter a one-night-only speakeasy, where you can sample bourbon and other spirits at the VIP bar. Meet the world’s first female master bourbon taster, Peggy Noe Stevens, formerly with Woodford Reserve, pose for a gangster mug shot, and learn the Charleston and Shimmy as everyone celebrates the roaring ’20s.

The American Spirits exhibit spans the dawn of the temperance movement in the early 1800’s, through the roaring ’20s, to the unprecedented repeal of a constitutional amendment during the Great Depression. Throughout the exhibit you uncover the stories of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and real-life legends like John Dillinger, Al Capone and Carry Nation.


Over 100 rare artifacts and multimedia experiences await to be discovered within the recreated environments that include a speakeasy where you can learn the Charleston, and learn the slang of the time. Listen to temperance speeches in a church setting, and learn about the tactics used law-enforcement to stop bootlegging. The exhibition will also feature Wayne Wheeler’s Amazing Amendment Machine, which is a carnival inspired installation that traces the complex political and legal maneuvering behind the passage of the 18th Amendment.

While visiting the Indiana State Museum be sure to snap a selfie next to John Dillinger’s 1933 Essex Terraplane. Look closely, and you’ll spot the two slugs in the front cowl panel of the Essex, which were the results of a shootout with the police. Dillinger was shot in left leg, and escaped. He was later surrounded in July 1934 at a Chicago, and killed.


Photo via Indiana State Museum

It’s true, we’ve come a long way from the 1920’s when Prohibition ceased all manufacturing, sales and transport of alcohol. While Indiana does not allow sales of alcohol on Sundays, yet, alcohol was actually allowed for sale at the Indiana State Fair for the first time this summer. When you join the Curiosity Camp: Craft Beer in Indiana, also hosted by the Indiana State Museum, you’ll uncover more about Indiana’s brewing history, and the growth of its breweries and micro pubs across the state. During this event that takes place over 3 consecutive Thursdays you’ll tour the American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, and also sample great craft beer made in central Indiana.

Plan Your Visit To The American Spirits Exhibit At Indiana State Museum

The Indiana State Museum is located at 650 W. Washington Street in Indianapolis, and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For details on the American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, and other exhibit, events, and IMAX movies call the museum at 317-232-1637 or visit their website.
Admission to the Indiana Spirits event at the Indiana State Museum is $95 and $125 for VIP. Fashion-forward cocktail attire requested, and tickets may be purchased online.
The Curiosity Camp: Craft Beer in Indiana event is $100 per member, and $150 per non-member, which you can learn more about by calling 317-232-1637.

Wild Wednesday Facts:

  • Did You Know? John Dillinger lived just outside Mooresville, Indiana in Morgan County. While he did rob a local grocer, he later returned the money and apologized. His notorious life was immortalized by actor Johnny Depp in the Universal movie Public Enemies.
  • While at the Indiana State Museum check out the Mammoths and Other Beasts on exhibit.

Do you have a favorite brew?

photos via Melody Schubert unless otherwise noted


With a passion for travel and creativity, Journalist and Photographer, Melody Schubert let’s her imagination guide her as she explores the world. For her, everyday is an opportunity to embrace something new, and explore intriguing and overlooked destinations that express the heart of a region, and share these discoveries with readers of Travel Freak. She is also Editorial Executive for USA Travel Magazine - where she shares more of travel interests.


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