1942 – Crowds Come To Macy’s At The Last Minute, Not For Christmas Gifts, But Liquor
The government can raise food taxes, gasoline taxes and income taxes and people will get riled up. But when you increase taxes on alcohol, that’s when people go into a panic .
Immediately after the Unites States jumped into World War II on December 8, 1941, the Federal government added taxes on all sorts of things to raise money for the war effort. A tax on distilled liquor was passed: $4.00 per gallon effective November 1, 1942. In addition to that tax, retailers would have to pay a floor tax of $1.00 per gallon on any unsold liquor in their possession after that date.
Here is proof crazed buying scenes did occur in the past, though they were much more civilized. Today we associate buying frenzies with the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday or on Christmas Eve.
In our photo above on October 31,1942 crowds descended upon Macy’s liquor department to stock up on whiskey, gin, vodka and any liquor they could get, before the new liquor tax went into effect the next day.
The increased cost to consumers would be about 50 cents per bottle.
In New York City, Gimbels, Abraham & Strauss, Hearn’s, Bloomingdales, Macy’s and all the large department stores had liquor departments. They bore the burden of the buying rush and were the prime beneficiaries of the impending tax with record setting sales.
The stores were swamped with customers looking to stock up on liquor. In the week leading up to the imposition of the tax, hundreds of people lined up even before stores opened.
After the doors opened the crowds flocked right to the liquor department. Many brands of distilled spirits quickly ran out of stock, and customers were not being choosy at all. As one liquor dealer noted, “As long as it’s liquor, they’ll buy it.”
Before November 1, the stores would not be restocking. Stores needed to sell whatever liquor they had in stock and in the warehouses to avoid the floor tax on their unsold bottles.
Just how important was this extra tax to the government’s coffers?
Alcoholic beverages were the nation’s number one source of Federal tax revenue. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 1943, the alcoholic beverage industry collected $10,607,000,000 for Federal, State and local treasuries.