Bad Habits: Drinks, Drags and Drugs in Washtenaw County History

Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor in particular, has hosted a number of notable events in the history of mind- and body-altering substances—Temperance crusader Carrie Nation’s visit, performances by John Lennon and other rock acts in support of John Sinclair’s efforts to legalize marijuana, and the opening (and eventual closing) of a Pfizer research facility—each of which finds its place in the exhibit. Yet the display also shows how Washtenaw County’s history of drugs and alcohol is part of a larger, national story—one where Prohibition closed saloons and led to bootlegging and alcohol raids; where drug stores and pharmacies made big money in the nineteenth century selling “magic cure-alls” that eventually became subject to regulation and professionalization; where smoking, an act that once seemed nearly universal, was recently banned on the University campus; and where D.A.R.E. programs teach kids to “Just Say No.”

In this exhibit you will see medicine bottles from historic local pharmacies, memorabilia from local bars, and recipe books with popular cure-alls, historical photographs, posters, news articles, and documents. Help us collect a record of your favorite local watering holes, past and present and include your own memories of bar culture in the county.

This exhibit is a collaboration with the University of Michigan LSA Research Theme Semester titled: “Hooked: Addiction, Society, Culture” in conjunction with the UM Substance Abuse Research Center and the Washtenaw County Historical Society – Museum on Main Street.

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