by J. Keirn Brennan, Gus Edwards, and Paul Cunningham (1919, James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection)
As America’s battle-worn soldiers began their return home after World War I, they encountered the unwelcomed paradox of mother’s open arms and Prohibition. One week after the Armistice ended the First World War, Congress passed the Temporary Wartime Prohibition Act on November 18, 1918. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which was enacted on January 16, 1919, banned the sale and consumption of alcohol.
As the soldiers continued to return home in 1919 their anger grew more intense against Prohibition, and many Tin Pan Alley arrangers composed new songs to capitalize on this resentment. The song’s chorus begins:
Why America never took water, So why should she take it now? England gave us Ale and Porter, To drink their wines the French have taught us how. Of water in the trenches, we surely had our fill, So we can’t understand why you should hand it to us still, For America never took water And America never will!