some ways, the Wild West died in Texas in 1907 with the passage of
a piece of legislation called the Baskin-McGregor Act.
Little known today, an Internet search shows only three references
to the act in all the World Wide Web.
"The drouth [sic] has begun," the Amarillo Weekly Herald mourned when
the law went into effect on July 18, 1907. But the drought had very
little to do with any shortage of water, except for those who preferred
a little branch water with their whiskey.
Passed by the 30th Legislature early in the administration of Gov.
Thomas M. Campbell, the Baskin-McGregor Act profoundly affected what
the new law referred to as the "drinking public." Not to mention the
purveyors of booze.
The act mandated that:
at midnight and on Sundays
nor "lewd women" could enter a saloon or stay there if they did
not work as a "servant, bartender or waitress" in a saloon
or other musical instruments could not be played in saloons
No games prohibited
by law would be allowed (to put it plainer, no gambling)
wrestling, cock fights or any other exhibition or contests" be prohibited
In other words, very little that had previously been associated
with saloons in wild and wooly Texas remained legal. Prostitution
and gambling had never been legal, of course, but this new law amounted
to major party pooping.
To add insult to injury to the alcohol industry in the state, the
new law required bar owners to pony up an annual license fee of
As former Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms special agent Bob Alexander
wrote in his biography of John H. Behan, "Sacrificed Sheriff" (Silver
City, NM: High-Lonesome Books, 2002), "Clearly, the saloon owners
and their customers were displeased, while others saw Baskin-McGregor
as a long over-due opportunity to 'clean up' the state."
Indeed, saloon owners, their dice-throwing or garter-displaying
sub-contractors and a loyal patrons did not see the new legislation
in quite as favorable a light as preachers and assorted anti-saloon,
The legislation passed in Austin,
where many a lawmaker ran tabs in local watering holes and could
count on a warm, first-name greeting in the red light district along
Second Street, did not stop drinking, gambling and prostitution
in the Lone Star State. But it sure crimped quite a few folks' lifestyles.
The new law also heated up local politics across the state, with
candidates often dividing on their enthusiasm for local enforcement
of the measure. Resulting tensions were enough to drive a man to
Sensing that, one beverage distributor in El
Paso published this timely newspaper advertisement:
"For a politician's nerves, after a strenuous day's work, nothing
is better than a bottle of Miller's 'High Life' beer. We personally
recommend it. Carr-Bass Liquor Co."
Years later, following Prohibition and then the private club era,
it once again would become possible to buy a mixed drink in Texas
on any day of the week, but the Baskin-McGregor Act marked the end
of a rough and tumble era in the Lone Star State.
Cox January 23, 2007 column
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