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The temperance movement had momentum in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Groups such as the Salvation Army (1864), the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (1873), and the Anti-Saloon League (1893) were formed to demonstrate for teetotalism and to lobby for the establishment of dry counties, states, and a national prohibition on the manufacture and consumption of alcohol. The strength of the teetotalers in Arkansas was significant and began to influence the politics of the state.


In 1871, the General Assembly voted to allow local referendum to decide whether saloons should be banned within three miles of colleges and schools. Eight years later, the legislature passed a law that called for towns to hold referendums every two years on whether to allow the sale of alcohol in quantities less than five gallons. This 1879 Act caused many saloons and stills to go out of business and resulted in gradual, community by community prohibition. In 1881, the General Assembly enacted the “Three Mile Law” which made it unlawful to “vend or give away” any intoxicating liquors within a three mile radius of any church or school. The Earnheart Distillery, however, had an out of state market for exports and soldiered on with production in the hostile regulatory environment of Arkansas. In fact, it was during this time, in 1887, that Robert Earnheart legally established his bonded and regulated distillery. It is not known, officially, whether the Earnheart family had been distilling whiskey in Arkansas since their arrival from North Carolina in the early 1850s.


By the late 1880s, over 100 anti-saloon or temperance organizations existed in Arkansas. They sought not only anti-booze legislation, but also the signatures of Arkansans pledging to “abstain from intoxicating liquors.” The radical prohibitionist Carry Nation forayed into Arkansas and rallied the spirits of the temperance voters. In 1906 and 1907, Nation toured parts of the state, gave speeches, and led mobs who smashed saloons and bars. Nation eventually made her home in Eureka Springs where she would die in 1911.


In the upheaval of the early the twentieth century, the Arkansas General Assembly began to discuss the latest proposals made by the enemies of booze like Carry Nation. In response, in January of 1907, Robert Earnheart addressed a 32-page booklet to the Arkansas General Assembly explaining the economic value to the State of his enterprises including the taxes paid, the jobs provided, and the superior economic value-addition that was derived from of converting corn to whiskey rather than to feedstock or meat. By his math, one acre of corn was as valuable as nine of cotton when the cost of labor and the value of the manufactured product was considered.


Despite the protestations of Arkansas’s leading whiskey producer, in 1913, Arkansas passed the “Going Law” which made the state officially dry with the caveat that saloons could petition their counties to stay in operation. By 1914, only nine Arkansas counties had open saloons. In 1915, Arkansas passed the Newberry Act, which banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the state. Thus, by the time Prohibition became a nation-wide reality in 1919, the State of Arkansas had already put the Earnheart Distillery out of business.


In 2017, Jack M. Campbell, the great (x3) grandson of Robert W. Earnheart began the process of reviving the Earnheart brands and rebuilding the family’s namesake distillery

Robert Washington Earnheart was a successful corn farmer who established a commercial distillery in the White River valley of Arkansas in 1887. One of his sons, Lee Edward Earnheart, joined his father in the distilling business and eventually ran the operation. A 1905 newspaper article explained that the Earnheart Distillery had a capacity of 100 gallons per day. The Earnhearts ran a profitable legal business with acclaimed products and esteemed brands for three decades. But then the anti-saloon league, and its ilk, descended upon Arkansas.

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