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Historical References
1926 Senate Prohibition Hearings

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April 5 to 24, 1926


223 * * * * * THE NATIONAL PROHIBITION LAW * * * * *

Senator REED of Missouri. That is all I wish to ask.

Mr. MCSORLEY. And if we could have our beer, those men would not be drinking hard liquor. They would go in some place and drink a glass of beer whenever the were off from work, or during lunch time and would then go on about their business.

Senator REED of Missouri. That is all, I thank you.

Mr. CODMAN. I shall now call Mr. Andrew Furuseth of the Seamen's International Union.

(The witness was duly sworn by Senator Walsh.)


Mr. FURUSETH. My name is Andrew Furuseth. I am president of the International Seamen's Union of America; residence, 59 Beaver Street, San Francisco, Calif.

Senator REED of Missouri. I know everything about you except I do not know how to spell your name. Will you tell me?

Mr. FURUSETH. F-u-r-u-s-e-t-h.

Mr. CODMAN. Make your statement in your own way, Mr. Furuseth.

Mr. FURUSETH. The seamen have a peculiar experience in this matter. Those people who are always eager to improve the people's conduct and morals by statutes and enactments, instead of by example, have found the seamen a very fruitful ground upon which to experiment.

Many years ago, when I first went to sea, and that is over 50 years ago, they had just begun to put into the articles of seamen, "No grog allowed." A seaman used to be served, that is, seamen in northern countries, England, and so on, they used to be served with a certain amount of grog a day.

Now the theory of the reformers was that if they did not get the grog at sea they would lose the taste for it, and they would surely be more sober than they were. Well, the theory did not work out. Instead of drinking less when he came ashore he drank more. That is the substance of that reform, which dates back some 60 years.

Now speaking for myself personally, for 30 years I never tasted any intoxicating liquors. And I was very much in doubt as to this prohibition proposition. I did not think that it would be a good thing in fact when it came to a vote upon it I voted against it, although I was myself a prohibitionist personally at that time. That is when the first question of voting came up.

I found in my own living amongst the seamen that when they got ashore they nearly all of them wanted a few drinks. Not being accustomed to it two or three drinks knocked them out, particularly the kind of drinks that we used to get around the saloons.

Now as a seaman I am entirely opposed to the saloon, always was, and I am now. And the seamen as a general proposition are. I am speaking now of the thinking, respectable seamen, who know what they want and are trying to do right. Among the seamen, you know, there are many who do not do either, because we constitute really, as a matter of fact, the rakings and scrapings of hell, bedlam,

224 * * * * * THE NATIONAL PROHIBITION LAW * * * * *

and Newgate, and so amongst us there are all kinds of people, failures from all strata in human society. They go to sea very much like the sewage does. Some sink for good, and some come back again to shore after a while after having had some fresh air and some wholesome conditions--- not wholesome in the ordinary sense, but wholesome as compared to what they were accustomed to on shore.

When the prohibition amendment was passed and the Volstead Act was enacted, about three months after that I came through Portland, Oreg. Now there is a certain district in Portland Oreg. where there is the so-called employment district--- it is usually. amongst the working people, called the "slave market"--- and I was the most astonished man you ever saw. Before that I had seen drunkenness there, dilapidated men, helpless, and in any condition that you do not want to see human beings. This time, three months after this act was passed there was an entire change. The men walked around from one place to another looking for employment, seamen and others. And they were sober. And they looked at the conditions, and they said, "No, we will wait a little." There was more independence amongst them than I had ever seen before. That very class which is the worst and lowest class that we know of amongst the seamen and workingmen. And I became an ardent advocate of the Volstead Act.

Two years afterwards I came through the same identical place, staying in Portland for about three days, and went to the very same place for the purpose of looking at the situation, and the condition was worse than it had been prior to the passage of the law. As long as the prohibition legislation was enforced, could be enforced, as long as the bootlegging element had not been organized, and not get the stuff, everything looked well. But the moment that they could get it they got it. And they will find it when nobody else can. They will find it somewhere. If it is to be bought in the vicinity any where they will find it. And the condition is worse than it ever was, because the stuff that they drink is worse than ever.

Now, the bulk of the seamen like a glass of beer with their food when they are on shore. And they get it if they can. If they can not, why, if somebody comes and gives them something else, why, they take that too. And the drinking among seamen has got worse than it was before because of this condition.

Now, my personal belief is and my experience among the men gives me this belief--- my personal belief is, of course, based on my experience among the men--- my personal belief, based upon my personal experience among the men, is that if the men were permitted to go into a restaurant conducted in a proper way and get a glass of beer together with their lunch or food, or a glass of claret together with their lunch or meal, if they were able to do that they would not bother with anything else. There is not 10 percent of them then that would be looking for any hard liquor. That is my absolute conviction, gentlemen.

If find that there is no difficulty of carrying out that kind of legislation in other countries. I find that when you can get light wines and beer men are not looking for hard liquor. That is the situation in Canada. It is the situation among the working people of England. To a very large extent, at any rate under my observation,

225 * * * * * THE NATIONAL PROHIBITION LAW * * * * *

they go into a saloon and get a glass of ale with their food, in a proper restaurant.

Now in Italy they can go in and get some claret, light claret, 6 to 8 or at the most 9 per cent. Eight per cent claret is as much alcoholic content as there ought to be really in ordinary table claret that men drink. Now you have to drink a whole lot of that to get drunk, and of course those who know what they are doing do not drink that except at their meals.

Now beer, on the other hand, men drink that because they are thirsty. They drink that in lieu of drinking water. And the man who works very hard. where it is hot, such as marine firemen, they can not drink water in sufficient quantities to satisfy them because they get sick of it, and what we do in that case is to take oatmeal and mix in the water and drink water mixed with oatmeal.

Of course they never got beer or whiskey in my time on board of ships. Never got it. It was taboo. But all the time when we are working in the cargo in hot weather--- my own experience working in the cargo in hot weather, loading or discharging vessels, we do not drink water, bare water. We put some oatmeal in that water and stir it up and drink it in that way. That keeps us from getting sick. It is much better.

Water is the very best thing when you are really thirsty and are not sweating over much. Then it is the best thing that a man can drink. But working in a very hot place, or working until every pore is open and the body craves for more drinks, why then we mix, as I told you, the water with oatmeal.

I do not see any sense in the present situation myself, and I say so frankly to anybody that ever talks to me about it. After I was 60 years old I began to take a little claret before my meal once a day. The doctor advised me to do so. And I have done so--- I did that up to the time that the Volstead Act took it away from me. Since that time--- and I have sworn to tell you the truth and the whole truth, so I am going to tell it to you--- since that time if somebody is kind enough to give me a drop of whisky or let me have it I keep it quietly, and I take a teaspoonful in a glass of water before I go and eat my supper. It does me good. And the doctor says it does. Not very long since the doctor prescribed for me just that very thing. So I do not have to have anybody giving it to me.

Senator REED of Missouri. That costs you $5 a pint about?

Mr. FURUSETH. Well, that is about what it costs, yes. The doctor was treating me for other things, so he did not charge me anything for the prescription and it cost me $2 and 6 bits for a pint of rye whisky. That is all right, I was perfectly willing to pay it, because it was medicine.

Now when I couldn't get it from the doctor, well, I got it from somebody else, as long as it was such that I could use it, and then I had to pay through the nose for it, and I was afraid of using it, too. In a couple of instances when I got hold of something I poured it into the swill because I was afraid of it. It had a smell about it and a taste about it that I did not like, and I just poured it into the slop.

Now that is my own personal experience with it. I think I might as well finish up what I have got to say directly.

Senator REED of Missouri. May I ask you one question?

Mr. FURUSETH. Certainly, as many as you like, sir.

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Senator REED Of Missouri. Do you find any difficulty at all it, getting in contact with somebody that will supply you with some of this stuff?

Mr. FURUSETH. I never found any difficulty with it, Senator, never found any difficulty with it at all. The difficulty was to get something that I dared to use.

Senator REED of Missouri. You said you might as well finish up.

Mr. FURUSETH. Well, I might as well finish up what I have go to say directly by saying this, that I am somewhat of a student of history. I have been more interested in that than in almost anything in the world, the history of the seamen, and history generally, and have never, gentlemen, found any instance in history in which the reformer succeeded in correcting manners, conduct, and mental attitudes through law. It always had to be done through example.

And so of course if this comes to a vote amongst the people I shall vote to repeal the amendment, if that is necessary. If I had a vote on the question in a town where I am living, and there was a question of regulation, I would vote for strict regulation as against all saloons, but I would vote to let the people have beer, clean, wholesome, mild beer, such as my mother used to make very much, and light claret.

That is all my statement, gentlemen, unless you have got any questions to ask.

Senator REED of Missouri. I wanted to ask you this: You are a native born of what country?

Mr. FURUSETH. Norway.

Senator REED of Missouri. Norway. How long have you lived in the United States?

Mr. FURUSETH. Since 1880.

Senator REED of Missouri. And how long have you been at the head of the Seamen's Union?

Mr. FURUSETH. I have been the head of its legislative committee since 1892. I have been president of the organization since 1908.

Senator REED of Missouri. And prior to holding these official positions did you hold any position with the organization?

Mr. FURUSETH. As secretary of the Sailors' Union of the Pacific from 1886 to 1888 two years. And from 1891 to 1892, and then resigned again. Then I came back again in 1892, in the latter part of the summer, and I was serving as the secretary of the Sailors' Union of the Pacific ever since, either directly or indirectly, because they are still electing me secretary and giving me leave of absence, so when I go back to the Pacific I am the regularly elected secretary of the Sailors' Union of the Pacific.

Senator REED of Missouri. And you have devoted then all of these years to a study of the welfare of the sailors?

Mr. FURUSETH. Yes, Sir; from the time I was 12 years gone to sea steady -- and I sailed under seven different flags at that time, and I studied the situations covering the seamen, the laws covering the seamen and the conditions governing the seamen as well as I could in those 12 years. Since that time I have served either as an officer direct or indirectly nearly all the time, and my whole, my entire effort has been to develop a better personnel and a better condition amongst the men who go to sea.

Senator REED of Missouri. You were a great advocate of the law that was passed regulating the conditions of sailors?

227 * * * * * THE NATIONAL PROHIBITION LAW * * * * *

Mr. FURUSETH. The so-called La Follette Seamen's Act.

Senator REED of Missouri. Yes.

Mr. FURUSETH. Yes, Sir; I was 21 years advocating it before it went into effect.

Senator REED of Missouri. You were 21 years advocating it 2

Mr. FURUSETH. Yes, Sir.

Senator REED of Missouri. Your sole object in appearing here is to secure a modification which you believe would benefit the moral and physical condition of the sailors--- I do not mean you confine it to that, but you believe it would have that effect, do you?

Mr. FURUSETH. I certainly do, sir, and that is my purpose in appearing.

Senator REED of Missouri. You believe that it would make for temperance and sobriety?

Mr. FURUSETH. That is what I believe, and that is my purpose in appearing here.

Senator REED of Missouri. That is all, Mr. Furuseth.

Senator WALSH. That is all, Mr. Furuseth. thank you.

Mr. CODMAN. Mr. James O'Connell, president of the Metal Trades Department.

(The witness was duly sworn by Senator Walsh.)


Mr. O'CONNELL. My name is James O'Connell. I represent the metal trades department of the American Federation of Labor as its president. That is a division of the American Federation of Labor, representing about 500,000 members.

There are two or three phases of this matter that I have in mind, which you are giving consideration to, and I simply want to make a few observations, because there isn't any time to go into detail, and there has been so much said already. To what has been already said I might say "amen" and let it go at that.

There is one particular phase of this matter that I want to make clear to everybody. There seems to be a misunderstanding as to the position of organized labor on this whole question of prohibition, and there seems to he an effort being made to place organized labor in the position of desiring to bring back the saloon. I want to make it clear that there would be no, stronger opponents in all the forms that make up our society of the United States against the return of the saloon than would be organized labor.

The department which I have the honor to represent in convention--- by the way, these department conventions usually meet and always meet just prior to the convention of the American Federation of Labor, and generally important measures that are passed in these department conventions are taken into the general convention of the American Federation of Labor or in some way or other are introduced there. Our department at its last convention and preceding convention the year before passed. a resolution unanimously in favor of a modification of the Volstead Act.

Now, my observations as a man who travels and meets men and women in every walk of life--- I am traveling practically a third of my