WPA Maine Drinkways
Today we share this story in celebration of National Applejack Month. To combat the Great Depression US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) launched his Works Progress Administration (WPA). WPA officials at the state level hired writers to travel throughout the country collecting stories about food traditions. We share the content in a paraphrased format when necessary to make them legible and we share direct quotes as often as possible. We will be sharing an original Donald McCormick story. McCormick had been a WPA writer in Maine and a member of the Maine Writers’ Workshop, but little else is known about him.
Portland, Maine Mayor Neal Dow (1804-1897) had been one of the pioneers of the US temperance movement which led to federal legislation prohibiting the production and sale of alcohol beverages. During the 1850s he campaigned for a statewide prohibition of alcohol and helped to create the Maine Liquor Law of 1851 which became the model for the National Prohibition Act. The culture of temperance that he set in motion had been the reason why Maine remained a dry state after the end of federal laws mandating prohibition.
Although alcohol consumption in Maine had been less common than in most other states, Maine residents enjoyed drinking beer and hard cider. Many have been distilling alcoholic drinks using unusual ingredients such as beef and raisins. One would fine barrels of hard cider in freezing barns. When the cider froze you drained out the alcohol called applejack or Maine-style moonshine. Those who produced the untaxed beverage kept it hidden to avoid legal troubles.