How ’Ya Gonna Keep ’Em Down on the Farm after They’ve Seen Paree? Prohibition and Its Effects on Returning Veterans from the Great War

Thursday, January 2, 2014: 1:20 PM
Embassy Room (Omni Shoreham)
Edmund D. Potter, Mary Baldwin College
In 1918, Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis penned the lyrics to one of the iconic songs of the First World War. The question they raised “How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm? After They've Seen Paree” was, however, a valid one when it came to high-mind Americans. Millions of young men would be exposed to the corrupting influences of the Old World in that most decadent of societies, France. While prohibition was by no means a new topic in 1917, it offered an extra safe-guard to protect the United States and help guide its soldiers back to civilian life. Men returning from the Civil War had used alcohol and various patient medicines to deal with the traumas of war. This would not happen again. Warner Brothers 1939 movie, The Roaring Twenties, sought to capture how this social experiment failed to keep veterans away from alcohol and instead led to a life of crime. But how accurate is this view of veterans of the Great War and the 18th Amendment?