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“D” is for Dispensary

“D” is for Dispensary. In 1892 South Carolina adopted the dispensary system which gave the state a monopoly on the sale of liquor. The dispensary law prohibited the manufacture of liquor and provided that only the government could sell liquor. All but two counties opted to establish dispensaries. The state board of control set policies and also appointed local dispensers. Dispensers sold liquor at set prices and divided the profits among the state, the municipality, and the county. The dispensary failed to work as designed. Patronage battles and widespread corruption characterized its operations. In 1907 the state system was closed but counties were allowed to continue local dispensaries. Six counties kept the system; their vast business prompted six others to join. In a 1915 referendum South Carolina voted to adopt prohibition and shut down the remaining dispensaries.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.