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This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The other day I came across a 1912 full-page newspaper ad for the Rock Island Brewing Company touting their best-seller, "Cross-Country Beer." The ad improved my self-image a good deal. I had no idea how inefficient an apple a day was in keeping the doctor away, compared to beer.

The ad pointed out that the majority of the world's best workers are beer drinkers, and "beer drinking nations have long occupied the foremost position in the progress of the world." Germany, for instance, along with England and Scandinavia, rather than those wine-drinking French and Italians.

The ad went on to tell me why what was true. "Beer is absolutely pure, being entirely free from disease-laden germs so frequently found in milk and water." Furthermore, it contains no caffeine, as coffee does, nor tannic acids found in tea. Beer is a pure tonic, the only liquid safe to drink. Did you know that a single quart of beer contains one-fifth pound of dry ingredients—albumen, nutritious salts, including the all-important phosphates and extracts of malt? Beer, said the Rock Island Brewing Company, is "Liquid Bread."

The ad pointed out that beer was promoted by all the leading church figures in their temperance fight against whiskey, gin, and that demon rum. Beer was the very soul of moderation. The brewing company pointed out that beer contains so little alcohol that it is absolutely harmless, but does contain enough to produce "that mild form of stimulation and exhilaration which the human system craves."

I learned something else from the Rock Island Brewing Company ad. I realize now that the prohibition movement looming on the horizon in 1912 was more devious than I had thought. It was fueled by lobbyists: dairymen trying to return the country to milk, the Washington State apple council hoping that an apple a day would increase falling sales, and, of course, the American medical profession, worried that all their beer-drinking patients were staying so healthy.

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.