Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Groceries as Saloons

When we hear the word "grocery" or the term "grocery store" today, we think of a place that primarily sells food, and neither term has a negative connotation. That has not always been the case in this country.
When the temperance movement was at high tide during 1800s, the term "grocery" did have a negative connotation, at least among temperance advocates. Not all grocery stores sold liquor, but the many that did tended to give them all a bad name among zealous temperance advocates. So much so that the very word "grocery" became almost synonymous with "saloon," and many temperance advocates used the term with sarcasm or disdain to suggest a place that was a grocery in name only.
In 1856, the temperance advocates of Springfield, many of them women, managed to get a law passed by the Missouri Legislature, called the Springfield Liquor Law, that outlawed the sale of liquor in Springfield. After its passage, the ladies of Springfield, in a letter of appreciation to the legislature, boasted that there was now "no dram shop or grocery in Springfield."
This negative attitude toward the word "grocery" probably helps explain why businesses that we might tend to think of today as "grocery stores" were more often called "general stores" during the 1800s and early 1900s. If you didn't sell liquor, you let people know it by calling your place of business a general store instead of a grocery store. At least I suppose that was the logic, although I'm sure there were "general stores" that also sold liquor, under the counter if not openly.


Blogger Unknown said...

I didn't know about this. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

October 15, 2012 at 12:20 PM  

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