Story: Referendums

The soldier's vote, April 1919

The soldier's vote, April 1919

The capitalist brewer 'Bung' and the 'wowser' prohibitionist both plead with the soldier for his vote, in this 1919 cartoon from New Zealand Truth. The April 1919 referendum, held shortly after the end of the First World War, was the first to require a simple majority to bring in prohibition of alcohol. The first count gave a narrow victory to prohibition, but there were still nearly 40,000 special votes to come in from soldiers overseas – on troopships, in camps and in hospitals. The thirsty soldiers voted 31,981 for continuance versus 7,723 for prohibition – enough to give continuance a majority and keep New Zealand 'wet'.

Using this item

National Library of New Zealand, Papers Past
Reference: NZ Truth. 19 April 1919, p. 1
Cartoon by Thomas Ellis Glover

Permission of the National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Nigel Roberts, 'Referendums - Prohibition referendums', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 2 April 2023)

Story by Nigel Roberts, published 20 Jun 2012, reviewed & revised 30 Aug 2016, updated 1 Dec 2020