It's quite likely that W. C. Fields would rather be in Philadelphia in 1921. At least if the other choice were Canada. On April 18th the Ontario government announced prohibition, to take effect in three months. Québec province would take control of all alcohol sales on May first. In October New Brunswick would ban the importation of liquor. Canada's good neighbor to the south would do it's part, even though it wasn't ready to curb its own citizens' tippling. On October 21st the U. S. banned the shipment of foreign liquor through its territory. A little over a month later President Harding signed the Willis-Campbell Act, forbidding doctors to prescribe beer for medicinal purposes. Prohibition wasn't the goal as much as safety; the act was meant to ban unregulated alcohol-containing patent medicines.

Food as well as drink was in the news. Europe, still recovering from the recent World War, suffered from a serious lack of it. In January John D. Rockefeller pledged $1,000,000 for European relief. The following day Midwestern farmers donated 15,000,000 bushels of corn for Europe. Global politics interfered in Russia when the League of Nations refused famine aid, blaming the new government for its country's problems. On December 22nd the U. S. passed a Russian Famine Relief Act, authorizing the expenditure of $20,000,000 for the purchase of foodstuffs.

Fruit seems to have been on some minds in 1921. On August 9th Carlo Sanders, Howard Johnson, Philip Bartholomae and Guy Bolton's musical comedy Tangerine opened at Broadway's Casino Theater and ran for 3347 performances. Serge Prokofiev's opera Love for Three Oranges premiered in Chicago. And further west, in Idaho, Lydia Southard was jailed for killing her fourth husband with a poisoned apple pie, gaining the nickname Lady Bluebeard. Right here in western New York Alice Monteith Gould opened a restaurant on Main Street in Batavia. It would become known as The Berry Patch. Rochester grocers John and Walter Wegman bought the Seel Grocery Company and began combining their grocery and bakery operations. Down in New York City the D'Agostino brothers arrived from Abruzzi, Italy. Nicola becomes a pushcart peddlar and his brother Pasquale (Patsy) a butcher. Their subsequent grocery chain would dominate Manhattan food buying patterns right up into our own time.

Speaking of effects on our own time, in 1921 there was a young man working for George Williamson's candy company whose main duty was to run errands for everyone else, what we would call a 'gofer'. He was in constant demand. It's a good thing everyone there knew his name. Otherwise, today you would go through the supermarket checkout at Wegmans or D'Agastinos and pick up a Hey, Kid candy bar, instead of an Oh, Henry.


© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte


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