Author to present “Prohibition in Iowa”

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Iowa had statewide prohibition in 1916, four years before the national policy in 1920. Above, a young rebel hides her flask in her garter. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

The 18th Amendment, which outlawed the manufacturing and selling of liquor, created a profitable, dangerous business opportunity for moonshiners and bootleggers on the other side of the law.

Three states – Iowa, Kansas and Maine — were ahead of the vountry on Prohibition.  In fact, Iowa had statewide prohibition in 1916, four years before the national policy in 1920.

Prohibition program

The book, Prohibition in Eastern Iowa, by Iowa author Linda Betsinger McCann, revisits Prohibition and uncovers why farmers began to use their corn to produce liquor. McCann gathered important information from children of moonshiners and bootleggers, and researched newspaper archives from the Prohibition era to complete her book. 

McCann will present "Prohibition in Eastern Iowa" on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at 6 p.m. at the Guttenberg Public Library. 

The Iowa author grew up on a farm near Waverly. "I graduated from nurses training, earning a Registered Nursing (RN) degree, and moved to Shell Rock," McCann shared. "I took some time off when my children were small and became involved in the local historical society.  I was shocked to discover I was a descendent of the town's founder."

McCann began researching her personal family history. "I found   many interesting stories and decided to compile the information and published a very rudimentary book – I don't think it even had pictures – titled, Where Did They Go," she commented. "It was about eight towns surrounding Shell Rock that disappeared. We sold it at the Shell Rock Historical Museum. I was never a writer. I had to ask my daughter for help." 

She went on to say, "A publishing agent found one of my books on a Creighton University professor's desk, and inquired whether I would be interested in writing a series of county-wide books." 

After a period of time McCann's publisher cut her loose, citing the books weren't a viable series. "That was after Lost Black Hawk County: Vanished Towns of the Cedar Valley sold 700 copies, out of 1,000 published," she pointed out. "Any non-fiction book is considered a success after it sells 500 copies. All of my books have sold more than that." 

Tandem Publishing in Des Moines is currently McCann's publisher. "They oversee the editing, cover design, printing and sales," said McCann. "My other books have been published by the Historical Society and I have self-printed some genealogy and biographies."

The Iowa author is inspired to keep writing and pursue certain topics while visiting with young people – especially her grandchildren. "I love discovering Iowa history that younger people don't know about," she told The Press. "I have been shocked by how many people didn't know there was Prohibition in Iowa." 

Guttenberg's  Prohibition History

In 2019, McCann completed 220 speaking engagements across Iowa. "I have presented programs in all four corners of the State and everywhere in between," she laughed. "I will share some information I uncovered specific to Guttenberg during the Prohibition program."

McCann had to sort through a lot of tall tales while conducting research for Prohibition in Eastern Iowa. "Everyone had a story about Al Capone. If he spent that much time in Iowa he wouldn't have had much time to be in Chicago," laughed McCann. "I researched every story I was told, but was not able to verify the information through newspaper archives. If he was in Iowa it would have been reported in the newspaper, especially small town publications!"  

For additional information contact Linda McCann at losttownsofiowa@gmail.com.

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