Step back in time to an exhilarating era of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance workers, and real-life legends like Al Capone and Carry Nation.
American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, the first comprehensive exhibition about America’s most colorful and complex constitutional hiccup, will make its final stop on a nationwide tour at the Heinz History Center beginning on Saturday, Feb. 10.
A traveling exhibition created by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, American Spirits brings the story of Prohibition vividly to life, from the dawn of the temperance movement, through the Roaring ’20s, to the unprecedented repeal of a constitutional amendment.
The exhibit features more than 100 rare artifacts, including flapper dresses, temperance propaganda, a 1929 Buick Marquette, and original ratification copies of the 18th and 21st Amendments.
The Smithsonian-affiliated History Center will also display a Prohibition-era “rum runner” motorboat, on loan from the National Museum of American History.
Stop by a re-created speakeasy – a term purportedly coined outside of Pittsburgh in McKeesport – where you can learn to “Charleston” and explore the fashion, music, and culture of the Roaring ’20s.
Along with artifacts, immersive displays, and videos, the American Spirits exhibition features dozens of interactive activities, including the dazzling Wayne Wheeler’s Amazing Amendment Machine – a 20-foot-long, carnival-inspired contraption that traces how the temperance movement culminated in the 18th Amendment.
Play a custom-built video game where you serve as a federal agent tracking down rumrunners, or pose for a mug shot with Al Capone and some of the era’s most notorious gangsters.
Exploring Pittsburgh’s Spirited History
The American Spirits exhibition at the History Center will examine Pittsburgh’s deep connections with the regulation of alcohol, which has been a catalyst for civic dissent since the Whiskey Rebellion in 1791-1794. During the Prohibition era, Pittsburgh – with its immigrant population heavily involved in the liquor business – earned a reputation as one of the “wettest” cities in America. The exhibit will include several local artifacts that showcase Western Pennsylvania’s long history with alcohol.