Charge of the Little Embassies at Washington

While Prohibition applied almost everywhere in the U.S. in the 1930s, foreign embassies were exempt. As a 1923 New York Times Magazine article described, this made embassies some of the hottest tickets in D.C.

The embassies and legations were to discover that they had the monopoly on a fast-disappearing social talent of serving unlimited sparkling Burgundies and champagnes. … At the very most conservative estimate, prohibition has added appreciably to the social importance of the South American and smaller European embassies.

One nation was singled out for particularly taking advantage of this legal loophole.

Japan was the first to grasp the full strategic importance of that event to the foreign diplomats within our gates. During the arms conference last fall, it is said that Japan laid in a whole cellarful of choicest liquors — and that the cellar gave out and had to be restocked. At one of the Japanese social functions, given in honor of the army and navy, there was a regular bar, with three bartenders serving Johnny Walker and Japanese drinks.

In the modern era, many embassies still offer plenty of entertainment to the public, including concerts, film screenings, sports viewing parties, cooking classes, exhibits, and talks. 

Charge of the Little Embassies at Washington

Published: Sunday, February 4, 1923


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