For 12 years, Prohibition had been the law of the land, a law enforced in the city by a team of sometimes crooked prohibition cops and ignored by people who openly drank at the city’s legendary speakeasies.
So New York’s mayor, party guy and frequent speakeasy visitor James J. Walker, proposed an idea.
He wanted to stage an enormous protest parade, with participation on the part of labor activists, government officials, and regular citizens, up Fifth Avenue.
It wouldn’t be the first “wet parade” in the city. Anti-Prohibition marches were held in the 1920s as well, attracting many drys, as they were known, as well.
The argument was strong: legalizing beer and other beverages would add millions in tax money to government coffers and also open up an industry that would employ thousands in Depression-era America.
On May 14, at least 100,000 marchers strode down Fifth Avenue from 80th Street, with picket signs, in costume, and cars festooned with slogans.
The marchers went west on 59th Street and back north on Central Park West, parading into the night.
Other cities and towns held beer parades as well, and Coney Island had its own on Surf Avenue a month later.
(Interestingly, at noon, the marchers paused for a minute of silence in honor of Charles Lindbergh Jr., whose body was found dead in woods in New Jersey two days earlier.)
How effective was the beer parade? Hard to say. It generated big media coverage (check out this old newsreel) and may have helped put the final nail in the coffin for Prohibition, dead and gone 19 months later.