Dispensing Taste: Class, Cultural Consumption, and Defiant Drinking in Charleston During the Era of the South Carolina Dispensary System, 1893-1907
Powell, Brett Houston
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The South Carolina Dispensary System created a state sponsored monopoly of the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages. Conceived as an alternative to statewide prohibition, the Dispensary regulated moral indiscretions associated with alcohol but failed to directly confront the underlying features of South Carolinian drinking practices that the system's supporters deemed undesirable. Few cities in the South regarded drinking as highly as Charleston and many of the citizens, business owners, and city officials viewed the Dispensary as a wholesale attack on the vibrant culture of their community. By outlining the distinct cultural contours of Charlestonian society in the late nineteenth century, this study offers an explanation of why the citizens of the Holy City viewed the Dispensary system as incompatible with their distinctive urban culture and how they sought to voice their dissent while maintaining their municipal legacy.