Brewing up history

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On Jan. 17, 1920, Clark County, along with the rest of the United States, went “dry” as prohibition began in America. Exactly 100 years later, the Clark County Historical Museum (CCHM) has opened its newest exhibit, “History A Brewin.”

“We were looking at prominent or important commemorative dates and anniversaries and we realized that the startup of prohibition began in 1920. So, the county went dry on January 17, 1920,”  Clark County Historical Society and Museum Executive Director Bradley Richardson said. “Now, that’s the date of the open. We were very lucky that 100 years ago, they planned it on a Friday.”

The exhibit starts in 1826 as the first crop of barley was planted in the Clark County area. 

“That (planting) is what allowed the Hudson’s Bay Company to actually dabble in beer production,” Richardson said. “The Hudson’s Bay Company brought some of the earliest agriculture and different things to the community.” 

After a short review of history, the story continues on from the Vancouver Barracks and takes readers through the early brewers of Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest such as Lucky Lager and Henry Weinhard. 

“We got some fun memorabilia and we were luckily able to find pictures of many of these places,” Richardson said as he showed off some Lucky Lager memorabilia and prohibition-era bottles on display in the exhibit. 

“This is a cap from a still and it was found in the Rosemere Neighborhood underneath a porch,” he said. “It’s a real cap from a real still that was used to make illegal liquor in Clark County.” 

Along with the historic still, one wall of the exhibit is filled with colorful beer cans from current local breweries. 



“I love it,” Richardson said about the makeshift bar, “because it brings that connection together of showing this history and then showing all these contemporary brewers.”

Along with donating cans, local brewers have also helped with much of the exhibit memorabilia and history. 

“Bryan Shaw up at Trapdoor Brewing donated this jacket for the exhibit after we chatted for a bit about history,” Richardson said, pointing to a Lucky Lager letterman’s jacket. 

The history of alcohol at the Vancouver Barracks is Gretchen Hoyt’s favorite part of the exhibit. Hoyt, who put together many of the panels for the exhibit, explained how much of the Fort was riddled with alcoholism. In 1892, the Vancouver Barracks saw its highest admissions to the sick bay due to alcoholism. 

To help pay for the exhibit, the CCHM put together a “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” sponsor wall. Any person, business or organization can pay $100 to sponsor a bottle of beer to go on the wall. 

“Once there’s 99 sponsors, we’re done, and they will get to keep the bottle once the exhibit is over,” Richardson said. 

The exhibit is scheduled to remain open for a few years and sits alongside two other exhibits in the museum in Vancouver. For more information on past, present and future exhibits, visit www.cchmuseum.org.

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