Talk: The Great Winfield Saloon Riot

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Program Description


In early 1901, at the beginning of the new century, Carry Nation, armed with a hatchet, began her campaign to close down the saloons across Kansas.  Her actions set in motion events that led to the great Winfield saloon riot.  On Sunday, November 10th, Jerry Wallace will be at the Winfield Public Library to discuss Ms. Nation, Kansas’ prohibition and the tensions between the local “wets” and the “drys.”  No registration is needed for this talk that will be begin at 2pm.    

The saloons challenged by Ms. Nation were all operating illegally, for Kansas had passed in 1881 a prohibition amendment to its Constitution.  Local governments, however, allowed saloons to continue to operate freely because they needed the money paid to them in fines by the saloons ($100 to $200 a month) to run their towns and cities.  This infuriated the prohibitionists.

The citizens of Winfield and the surrounding area were generally fierce prohibitionists.  As Mrs. Nation carried out her “hatchitation" campaign, they rallied to her cause and tensions heated up between the local wets and the drys.  These tensions exploded on Feb. 13,1901, when a crowd of angry prohibitionists, many of them students from Southwestern College, who were led by a minister, stormed Schmidt's saloon and reduced it to rubble, with the operators barely escaping with their lives.  Several days followed when it was feared the city was on the brink of civil war.  And, to the horror of Winfield city fathers, Winfield received unfavorable publicity in the nation’s press, including on the front page of The New York Times.