Although dating from the 1870s, the city of Lincoln’s preoccupation with the prohibition issue quickened in the first decade of the twentieth century. With the failure of efforts to add a prohibitory amendment to the state constitution in 1890, prohibitionists focused their attention on counties and cities, where they were more successful. The spring election of 1902 in Lincoln resulted in the establishment of a progressive excise, or tax, policy for the city’s saloons, which provided for a gradual reduction in their numbers and limited hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawed the manufacture and sale of liquor nationwide, but statewide prohibition was already in effect in Iowa and Nebraska. In 1916 Iowa went dry and Nebraska voters adopted a prohibitory amendment to their state constitution that took effect in May 1917. Enterprising individuals soon learned how to profit by flouting the law.