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.