100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Absinthe Ban Enforced in France

Absinthis a distilled, highly alcoholic beverage derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of wormwood together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. Absinthe is traditionally bottled at a high level of alcohol by volume, but it is normally diluted with water prior to being consumed. Absinthe originated in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland in the late 18th century. It rose to great popularity as an alcoholic drink in late 19th- and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers.

Absinthe’s popularity grew steadily through the 1840s, when absinthe was given to French troops as a malaria preventive.When the troops returned home, they brought their taste for absinthe home with them. The custom of drinking absinthe gradually became so popular in bars, bistros, cafés, and cabarets that, by the 1860s, the hour of 5 p.m. was called l’heure verte (“the green hour”). By the 1880s, mass production had caused the price of absinthe to drop sharply. By 1910, the French were drinking 36 million litres of absinthe per year.

Absinthe had been associated with violent crimes by prohibitionists.

“Absinthe makes you crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, and has killed thousands of French people. It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganizes and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country.”

Absinthe had been banned in 1898 in the colony of the Congo Free State, in 1906, both Belgium and Brazil banned the sale and distribution of absinthe, 1909 Netherlands, 1910 Switzerland,the United States in 1912, and France in 1914.

On January 7, 1915 the manufacture of Absinthe was officially banned in France by ministerial decree. This poster was produced by pro-absinthe followers. In the center, trampling the mortally wounded Green Fairy, is Raymond Poincairé, President of the French Republic, while in the background French troops are shown engaged in the first terrible battles of the Great War. The white ribbon at the bottom “Les Habitués d’…” is left blank, to allow the name of the bar or café that purchased the poster to be added.


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