Never Dry: The Rise of Prohibition on the Iron Range

CHISOLM, Minn. – “I honestly think history is always directly relevant to the lives that we are living today. You carry history with you no matter what you do even if you don’t know it,” Minnesota Discovery Center Curator, Allyse Freeman says.

In Chisolm, history runs deeper than the mine pits that tattoo the land. And at the Minnesota Discovery Center, exposing such history is done through exhibits like, Never Dry: The Rise of Prohibition on the Iron Range.

“What we really wanted to show was what it was like for the average person. Right so, we tend to focus on our history from the bottom up. So, focusing on the average Iron Ranger to try and create a story that’s more relatable to people as they come through this exhibit. Often times they will also see family members in exhibits which is always kind of a cool thing,” Freeman says.

Never Dry is a time traveling experience. Beginning with what it was like for Iron Rangers during pre-prohibition times and leads up to the National Legislation that was passed in 1919, banning the sale, transport, and making of alcoholic beverages.

“One of the main things we wanted to do with this exhibit was not have that stereotypical roaring 20’s story of flappers, the Great Gatsby, gangsters. What we really wanted to show was how prohibition effected groups completely differently,” Freeman says.

With the purpose of showing multiple sides to the prohibition story, the exhibit presents articles and artifacts from different classes, race, and ethnicities.

“Before national prohibition was passed, the western range from Chisolm over to Grand Rapids was actually already dry due to enforcement of indigenous treaties. And so, that region was experiencing their own prohibition before it passes nationally,” Freeman says.

Housed in the Overlook Gallery, Never Dry is a temporary exhibit. There is no firm end date for the display, but it will be up until at least December.

“Stories from the past can help you shape your present and help you create a better future. While it might not be blatantly apparent, some of the stories related to alcohol, right? But there are a lot of different layers within this exhibit that I think are pretty relevant to today’s current landscape of things,” Freeman says.

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