Prohibition in Switzerland

Primarily as a result of popular outrage generated by the Lanfray murders, the legislature of the canton of Vaud voted to ban absinthe on 15th May 1906. A similar gory murder in Geneva (a man named Sallaz, after a drunken absinthe binge, murdered his wife using both a hatchet and a revolver) galvanized public opinion there in favour of a ban, and the Genevan legislature enacted a law similar to Vaud’s shortly afterwards. On 2nd February 1907 the national legislature voted to ban absinthe, and even its imitators. The July 1908 referendum was held to ratify this decision and enshrine the ban in the Swiss constitution.

The eventual vote in this referendum was 241 078 to 139 699 in favour of the ban. Article 32 was added to the Swiss constitution and absinthe was forbidden in Switzerland. The law actually went into effect on 7th October 1910.

A German language Swiss anti-absinthe postcard, probably circa 1905-1908.

Schwyzerdütsch pro-absinthe poster for the July 1908 Swiss referendum, by Gantner, published by Louis Bron, in Le Guguss. A graphically identical poster, but with a different text in French patois, is in the collection of the Motiers Museum.


An enamelled blue cross, circa 1910-1920, apparently designed to be worn around the neck by temperance campaigners for the Croix Bleue.


A rare original of the famous 1910 “Messieurs…c’est l’heure!” anti-prohibition poster by Gantner also originally published in Le Guguss (see below). It shows a triumphant prohibitionist, dressed as a priest, trampling on the murdered figure of the Green Fairy, while in the background Helvetica mourns her lost liberties.