Prohibition Olivia Pachla

Prohibition was a national ban on the making and selling of beer, wine, and liquor from 1920 to 1933. The movement allied Protestants that still believed drinking to be sinful with social reformers who thought that the ban would reduce prostitution, spousal abuse, and crime rates associated with the growing immigrant population. Through efforts by the Anti- Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the idea of Prohibition became a test of American patriotism because of the need to use grain for food instead of alcohol during the war along with a backlash against German beer brewers. On January 16, 1919, the United States passed the Eighteenth Amendment, which banned the making, selling, and transportation of alcohol. The Volstead Act was passed in 1919 to outline the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment; and finally in 1920 Prohibition became effective, although it was not widely followed. Bootleggers, who made and sold alcohol illegally, illegal saloons called speakeasies, and the lack of funding to enforce the reform consequently led to the habitual law breaking and an increase in corruption and organized crime.

"After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited." - Section 1 of the 18th to the U.S. Constitution.

The United States Committee of Public Information published a daily newspaper, and this one in particular from 1919 contains the text of the Eighteenth Amendment.

Prohibition demonstrates both the gas and breaks of the 1920s. The movement to ban the manufacture and sale of alcohol united social reformers and showed how their calls for change during that time were taken seriously by both state and federal legislations. It also encouraged patriotism during wartime because reformers called for grain to be used for food and not booze during wartime. With that being said, the Eighteenth Amendment and Volstead Act were not enforced well, which lead to the “breaks” of the era. Although national levels of alcohol consumption decreased, many areas of America saw an increase during the Prohibition Era. Organized crime soared because of bootleggers and gangs, and speakeasies encouraged habitual law breaking. Furthermore, ten percent of the federal government's annual revenue from liquor taxes was lost, as well as thousands of jobs after the closing of breweries, distilleries, and saloons. Overall, Prohibition had more “breaks” than “gas.” On the surface it seemed like a good idea for social reform and patriotism; however, its encouragement of underground alcohol selling and consumption as well as organized crime and its negative economic impacts overpowered any positive change it brought.

"Establishment Serving Alcohol During Prohibition" This picture from the Wisconsin Historical Society illustrates how the Eighteenth Amendment failed to discourage drinking in a large percent of the population. They continued to drink even though they were breaking the law because the government did little to enforce it.
This prescription for alcohol issued by Dr. McCarter in 1923 demonstrates how people found loopholes in the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act in order to drink.
"Old Ben" from the Syracuse Herald in 1920 is written from the viewpoint of an average citizen during the Prohibition Era and it describes how the Eighteenth Amendment affected him. Old Ben's beer was obviously commonplace for him, and without knowing it he banned himself from it. Then, when he tried to make his own, he was sent to jail. The last couplet compares alcohol during Prohibition to the apple in the garden of Eden, meaning that people were tempted by alcohol and succumbed to that temptation just as Eve was tempted by and eventually ate the apple from the tree of knowledge.
Speakeasies were very popular during the Prohibition Era. The illegal saloons were run by bootleggers and were very popular in cites. By serving the illegal alcohol, speakeasies encouraged their patrons to break the law, although police often paid little attention to them.
Al Capone is the most famous Prohibition Era gangster, who was able to capitalize on the high demand for booze during the 1920s. He created a violent empire based on bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling based in Chicago that brought in $60 million, but also led to the death of several police officers and rival criminals. He was eventually tried in 1931 and sentenced to eleven years in prison. This is his mugshot.

This video is a good, short summary of the Prohibition Era.

Prohibition, the ban of the manufacturing, selling, and transporting of alcohol, was one of the great reforms brought about during the Progressive Era of the 1920s. Although it united Protestants and social reformers, encouraged patriotism during wartime, and led to a national decrease in alcohol consumption, its negative impacts greatly overpower these positives. Due to a lack of funds to enforce it, organized crime rates, habitual law breaking encouraged by speakeasies, and a loss of thousands of jobs along with ten percent of federal revenue regressed any progress made by the Eighteenth Amendment.

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