How dry he was: Daniels banned alcohol on ships

On this day in 1914: As Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of the navy, former Raleigh newspaper editor Josephus Daniels bans alcohol at officers’ mess aboard United States ships. The ban will go unbroken until 1980, when crew members of the aircraft carrier Nimitz are issued two beers apiece in recognition of their having been at sea for more than 100 days.

Daniels’ other innovations meet more resistance. To facilitate the training of recruits, he orders the terms port and starboard replaced with left and right. He has to abandon that effort, as well as one to make sailors wear pajamas.

In 1915, he halts the navy’s issuance of condoms, saying, “The use of this packet I believe to be immoral.” One result is that the navy suffers the highest incidence of venereal disease among the services. The onset of World War I causes Daniels to reluctantly give in; he leaves on an inspection trip, allowing his assistant — the young Franklin D. Roosevelt — to reverse the order.

The war gives Daniels leverage to clean up red-light districts that have fed off sailors. The most famous of these is Storyville in New Orleans, where the mayor argues strenuously, though futilely, for the “God-given right of men to be men.” By making Storyville’s brothels off-limits, Daniels removes the economic base of early jazz musicians, scattering them to Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis – and earning himself the wry title, “the Johnny Appleseed of Jazz.”

 

2 thoughts on “How dry he was: Daniels banned alcohol on ships”

  1. I remember hearing that the term “Cup of Joe,” to refer to coffee, came from naval soldiers derisively toasting Daniels — with the strongest drink they had available — after his order to ban alcohol on ships. What do you think? Any truth to this?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.