August 1914 – Prohibition in France

Because of its high alcoholic strength, and the constant campaigning of the prohibitionist movement, the production and sale of absinthe became increasingly heavily taxed and tightly regulated from the early 1900’s. Specific laws concerning absinthe were posted in bars and bistrots.

Notices advertising a ban on the retail sale of absinthe, with penalties for its continued sale, were posted throughout France in August 1914. In March 1915 absinthe was declared a toxic product, and its manufacture and sale were completely prohibited.

Anti-absinthe petition circulated by the Ligue Nationale Contre L’Alcoolisme, advocating a ban on the sale of absinthe in France. “Attendu que l’absinthe rend fou et criminel, qu’elle provoque l’épilepsie et-la tuberculose, et qu’elle tue chaque année des milliers de Français, Attendu qu’elle fait de l’homme une bête féroce, de la femme une martyre, de l’enfant un dégénéré, qu’elle désorganise et ruine la famille et menace ainsi l’avenir du pays, Attendu que des mesures de défense spéciales s’imposent impérieusement à la France, qui boit à elle seule plus d’absinthe que le reste du monde, Invitent le Parlement à vote’ la proposition de loi suivante: “La fabrication, la circulation et la vente de l’absinthe sont interdites sur toute l’étendue da territoire français, sous peine d’une amende de 5 à 10.000 francs et d’un emprisonnement de un à trois mois, ou de l’une de ces deux peines seulement.”

An original sketched cartoon by Milo. Apparently unpublished.L’Absinthe – C’est fait on va nous la supprimer. Alors à quoi ça a servi d’avoir pris la Bastille.

L’Assiette au Beurre: A cartoon by Jossot dealing with the news of impending prohibition.

Letter of 16th November 1914 from Paul Doumer, senator in the Military Government in Paris, enclosing copies of the proclamations banning absinthe and similar liquors.

Prohibition notice for the Doubs region issued by Raymond Poincaré on 16th March 1915.

Less well know than Gantner’s poster for the prohibition of absinthe in Switzerland, is this companion lithograph lamenting the final prohibition of absinthe in France 5 years later, by ministerial decree of 7th January 1915.In the centre, 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. This poster was discovered in 1970 on the premises of an old café – Le bar de l’Univers – Café Caramy in Brignoles, a small town on the route from Marseille to Cannes. In 1920 the building was condemned and walled up. 50 years later, when a new owner commenced renovations, the poster was found hanging behind a door. Format: 48 x 67cm.

An anti-prohibition chromolithograph, designed by Audino. It commemorates the vote of the French Chamber of Deputies on 12th February 1915 to ban the sale of absinthe in France. The French Green Fairy is being burnt at the stake in front of a crowd of weeping onlookers, while up above the Swiss Green Fairy, whose demise had already occurred five years earlier, waits to welcome her sister to Feé Verte heaven.