Photo by monstershaq2000/Flickr CC
The 1920s were a nostalgic time for drinkers. Prohibition was in full effect and all legal bars were closed, save a few near-beer joints. In the privacy of your own home you could drink a bottle of wine, or there were abundant places you could go and skulk if you needed to quench your thirst, but the country was now legally dry and thus sans bartenders. So, while you could still get a drink, you were out of luck if you wanted to bend the bartender's ear or enjoy a well-made cocktail in any civilized way.
In the District of Columbia alone, 3,000 bartenders were out of a job. This "guild of the resplendent mahogany" was more than the itinerant workers often behind bars today (although that, too, is changing), slinging drinks to get through college or before their band reaches stardom. They were proud, professional journeymen, who took their jobs seriously and poured drinks in a town that likely then and definitely now drinks more per capita than any other city in the United States.
One of these bartenders, Henry William Thomas, was considered among the best in the world. The "Bard of Baltimore," H.L. Mencken, called Thomas a bartender of the "highest skill and most delicate prudence," the latter of which was crucial when serving the members of Congress and the state.