Happy hour, a well-loved American tradition, originated in the 19th century as a common slang term among the US Navy used to describe the time allotted for entertainment, including activities like wrestling, chorus singing, and boxing.
The phrase started being used in relation to drinking in the Prohibition era, when a ban was put in place to avoid the production, transportation, and buying and selling of alcohol, beginning in 1920. The started as a result of a long and hard-fought campaign by people who characterized drinking alcohol as evil. Even though the ban was successful for a short period of time, many drinkers ignored this law.
Drinkers soon flocked to bars and clubs, using the term “happy hour” to talk in code about their tradition of drinking before dinner. After spending a huge amount of money enforcing the law against alcohol, the federal government experienced a huge drop in tax revenue. By 1933, many businesses crumbled under the suffering economy, and workers were leaving the workforce to illegally produce and serve alcohol, making a tax-free earning. The constitution was modified and thus ended the era of prohibition.
So, the next time you gather with your friends to grab a cup of cold beer, you might want to raise your glass to “prohibition era” and relish in the fact that the American people simply wouldn’t stop drinking.
And so, while the ban was lifted, the term “happy hour” stuck around. The resurgence of drinking in the time before dinner made its comeback in the mid-1970s, even while alcohol consumption was dropping drastically as strict laws were made against drunk driving.
Interestingly enough, the discounted costs associated with happy hour are currently banned in twenty-six states. This includes Massachusetts, even though Boston has the reputation of being “the drunkest city in America.” We’re willing to bet that even in states where the discounts are banned, the happy hour tradition is still alive and well.