“Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it,” said Councilman David Tandy, D-4, minutes before a barrel of bourbon was dumped out in front of the Frazier History Museum to launch their newest exhibit, “Spirits of the Bluegrass: Prohibition and Kentucky.”
The people who witnessed such an atrocity gasped in horror as the barrel of Woodford Reserve was hacked open by a hammer-wielding Penny Peavler, president and CEO of the museum, and mourned as its delicate contents trickled down into the street drain. The stunt was meant to re-enact the sinful shenanigans that went on when Prohibition started in 1920. And Peavler did her best Carry Nation interpretation as she went after the barrel like it was the devil himself.
The press conference included actors and staff dressed in ’20s-era attire, a jazz band and a few speakers — including Woodford master distiller and Kentucky Distillers’ Association member Chris Morris, Tandy and Peavler — who gave background on how Prohibition affected Kentucky and what this exhibit represents.
“We must revisit the past so that we never forget,” said Morris.
Peavler thanked numerous individuals and organizations who helped and donated to the exhibit, and touted Kentucky’s bourbon industry as being an integral focus for the Frazier. As you know, the Frazier History Museum serves as the official starting point for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
“There is no greater story for us to tell than that of Kentucky bourbon,” she said before conjuring up the rage of 50 Woman’s Christian Temperance Union members and assaulting the barrel.
“Prohibition and Kentucky” is now officially open at the museum, and the exhibit examines our state’s role in the “noble experiment” that lasted from 1920 to 1933. Displays focus on the rise of the anti-liquor movement, the passage of the Volstead Act, the key characters on both sides of the fence — from the violent whiskey dumper Carry Nation (who, sadly, is a Kentucky native) to bootlegger Al Capone — and finally the repeal of the 18th Amendment in ’33.
It also explores the styles and sounds of the time, showcases the few bourbon distilleries that were allowed to operate for medicinal purposes, and features nice local touches like the trunk of Emily Bingham’s great aunt Henrietta Bingham, an eccentric Jazz Ager featured in Emily’s recent book.
Admission into the Frazier History Museum is $12 for adults and $8 for kids 5-17. The museum is located at 829 W. Main St. Click here for hours.