Tonic or Toxic?

I once heard a historian/anthropologist describe America as having a love-hate relationship with alcohol. He characterized US history as consisting of tonic and toxic periods

He described it this way…

From the birth of the nation to the mid-1800s, alcohol was seen as a tonic. Think about the traveling “doctors” (aka snake oil salesmen) selling their alcohol-laced elixirs? Among other positive perceptions, alcohol was seen as “good for what ails you” and helped you to remain “healthy.”

After the Civil War, and for the next 60 years or so, alcohol was considered toxic culminating in the temperance movement and ultimately Prohibition from 1920 to 1933.

I found this online about our soldiers in WWI –

During WWI, British soldiers were rationed two ounces of rum or a pint of porter daily. Germans received a pint of beer, half a pint of wine and a quarter pint of spirits. Canadians got shipments of Jamaican rum. But U.S. soldiers, under Prohibition laws, observed a “dry” zone around its bases.

By WWII alcohol was widely available to our GIs and the tonic era started to come back.

The tonic period has gotten stronger thanks to 60 Minutes. The segment in 1991 called the “French Paradox,” described the benefits of red wine and has since extended to all alcohol. Many see moderate consumption as beneficial to health.

And no snake oil salesmen.

Oh, by the way, for some interesting historical trends on alcohol, wine and beer consumption check out the most recent information from Gallup

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