City liquor store toasts end of Prohibition

NASHUA – Joseph A. Therriault was a prominent Nashua businessman and politician in the 1930s, but he has gone down in history as the first person to legally buy liquor in New Hampshire following the end of Prohibition.

That 1934 purchase, $1.40 for a vintage 1929 Modec Supereur Bordeaux wine, will be commemorated Monday as the New Hampshire Liquor Commission holds its 75th anniversary party in Nashua.

Starting at 10 a.m., the exact hour on Aug. 17, 1934 when then-Alderman Therriault made his historic purchase, the liquor store at 27 Coliseum Ave. will hold a public ceremony to mark the occasion.

Amazingly, Therriault’s vintage bottle of wine still exists, unopened, along with the original receipt from the Railroad Square liquor store. His daughter, Dorothy Charron, of Nashua, will be on hand to show it off.

Other historical items that will be on display include the picture of the first sale, the price list of all spirits and wines on the opening day, and clippings of the day’s news coverage.

On Aug. 16, 1934, The Telegraph published the store’s entire 252-item price list. A fifth of Bacardi White Seal went for $3.60, while the same quantity of Johnny Walker Black ran $5. The most expensive item sold for $8.70; the cheapest was 45 cents.

The next day, the paper reported that sales at the store for the grand opening were “brisk.”

Prohibition, which banned alcohol in the United States for nearly 14 years, ended in 1933 after public sentiment changed during the Great Depression.

New Hampshire Liquor Commission Chairman Mark Bodi, a self-described “history buff,” said New Hampshire was one of the first states to back the 21st

Amendment repealing Prohibition.

After Congress voted in favor of the amendment, each state had to elect delegates to a constitutional convention to ratify the change. “There was not one town in New Hampshire that voted for delegates to approve the 21st amendment that were abolitionists,” Bodi said.

In June of 1934, New Hampshire legislators passed a law creating the liquor commission. Ironically, the governor who signed the bill, John G. Winant, was the same governor who had previously changed the state seal because it featured “rum barrels,” Bodi said.

The Nashua liquor store was one of three in the state to open on Aug. 17, 1934. The other two in Manchester and Concord.

In addition to the historic festivities Monday, the Coliseum Avenue liquor store will sell the first 200 bottles of 2005 Chateau de Macard Bordeaux for the 1934 price of $1.40.