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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Oklahoma Senate Bill Number Fifty-five, known as the "Bone-Dry Law," stipulated that "it shall be unlawful for any person in this state to possess any liquor received directly or indirectly from a common or other carrier." With the firm backing of the state's Anti-Saloon League, Sen. Walter Ferguson introduced the bill that many considered to be among the most stringent of its time. Violation of its mandates constituted a misdemeanor and carried a penalty of up to five hundred dollars in fines and six months imprisonment. The bill's passage in 1917 marked ten years since Oklahoma had entered the Union as a dry state.

Despite its almost unanimous passage, the bill became one of the state's most contested prohibition laws. It failed to exempt liquor distribution for sacramental use in churches while providing exemptions for hospitals, pharmacists, universities, and scientific institutions. The Roman Catholic Church challenged the law's capacity to prevent carriers to deliver wine intended for sacramental use in De Hasque v. Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company. On May 21, 1918, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that distribution of wine for sacramental purposes would be exempt from the law. The law's intent was further diminished by a December 1918 ruling that allowed an individual to possess liquor as long as it was not received from a common carrier. Despite losing its initial efficacy, the Bone-Dry Law remained on the books until Oklahoma repealed prohibition in 1959.

Tobie Cunningham

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Thomas Elton Brown, "Oklahoma's 'Bone Dry Law' and the Roman Catholic Church," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 52 (Fall 1974).

Jimmie Lewis Franklin, Born Sober: Prohibition in Oklahoma, 1907–1959 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Tobie Cunningham, “Bone-Dry Law,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=BO010.

Published January 15, 2010

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