Let's Shed Some Light on the Prohibition in the 1920s

Prohibition in the 1920s
The prohibition in the 1920s went on for 13 long years. It was a decade wherein manufacturing, sale and transportation of liquor was declared illegal in United States. The following article will cover some information on prohibition of alcohol that took place in the 1920s.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Apr 8, 2018
The prohibition in the 1920s was a period in the American history that saw a legal ban on manufacture, sale and transportation of liquors (alcohol). The prohibition in the 1920s in America is also known as the Noble Experiment. The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States lead to nationalized ban on liquor from 1919 to 1933. This era was one of the most famous as well as infamous political experiment.

This experiment was carried out during a time, when America was famous for its mafia, gangsters, rum-runners, speakeasies and other antisocial elements of the society. In order to control the situation, the government decided to ban the sale of liquor and get the lawlessness under control. The following facts related to the Prohibition Act will help you learn more about this experiment in detail.

Prohibition: 16th January 1920 - 5th December 1933

Interesting Facts About the Prohibition Era
The Temperance leaders took the help of a scholar to rewrite the Bible so that any mention of alcohol could be removed!

To punish drunkards, pro-prohibition activists suggested that they should be whipped, tattooed, sterilized, forbidden to marry and hung by the tongue beneath an airplane and flown over the country!

Gangster Al Capone gained infamy during the Prihibition era as he ran an organized bootlegging syndicate and made $60 million in sales in 1927!

After repealing the Prohibition Amendment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the nation, "What America needs now is a drink."


Facts about 1920s Prohibition Act

The prohibition in the 1920s in America was approved by 36 states and the Amendment was signed on January 16, 1919. The law came into effect after a year, that is, January 16, 1920. The Women's Christian Temperance Union played a major role in nationalizing the Prohibition on the 1920s in America. The aim was to help protect families, women and children from the ill effects of alcoholism.

You may be wondering what were these ill effects of alcohol that lead to enactment of prohibition in the 1920s. The roaring twenties was a time of total disregard for law and order, with gangsters running the show in the American streets, it was a time for eye-blinding glamor and speakeasies. During the 1920s not only the gangsters and mobsters broke the law, even the common American citizen had total disregard for law.

Alcoholism was on a rise since the American Revolution. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, people wanted to have a law for Prohibition. A Temperance movement was organized that had different societies trying to dissuade people from drinking alcohol. After many decades, the societies and organizations changed their tone from moderation to complete prohibition of alcohol looking at the rate of crime and murder.

The Saloons, became an oasis of alcohol for men of the 'Wild, Wild West'. It became a parlor of bacchanal and social evil. People especially women taking part in the Temperance movement wanted to ban liquor, as they thought it would help curb the men from drinking away the family income. It would also bring down the number of accidents at workplace, as the men even drank during lunch hours.

The religious denominations, mostly the Methodists started a campaign in the 1850s. However, it soon fizzled out and was revived in the 1880's by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, along with the Prohibition Party. Soon, the Anti-Saloon League was established in 1893. This made these three groups the major influence for passing the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Finally, by the early 20th century, in the 1916 more than half of the States of the United Nations of America had statutes for prohibition of alcohol. The 18th Amendment of the United Stated Constitution lead to the Prohibition in the 1920s with effect from January 16, 1920.

The final nail that lead to clarification of the law was the "Volstead Act'. This Act was passed through Congress over President Woodrow Wilson's veto. This helped define intoxicating liquor. This meant that 'beer, wine or other intoxicating malts or vinous liquors' or any beverage with over 0.5 % alcohol by volume was under prohibition. The law however only prohibited the sale of alcohol and did not do much to enforce the law strictly.

There were several loopholes in the law that lead to bootlegging and illegal production and distribution of liquor. The 18th Amendment did not state the actual drinking of liquor. People bought liquor cases for personal use. Also, people could consume liquor under the prescription of a doctor. So you can imagine the number of prescriptions for alcohol!

Rise in Bootlegging Crimes

The prohibition in the 1920s was meant to help reduce the crime rate, but instead it led to new gangs and gangsters coming up. They saw gold in bridging the gap between increase in demand and decrease in supply. Thus, men were hired to smuggle rum from the Caribbean and these people were called the 'rumrunners'. They even brought in whiskey into America from across the border, that is, Canada. The gangsters opened up speakeasies or secret bars that had many American men coming in to drink.

There were agents hired under the Prohibition act to raid these speakeasies and arresting the gangsters running them. But the agents were not only under-qualified, but also underpaid and unprepared for this kind of work. These agents were easily swayed by bribes and thus led to corruption.

Prohibition - A Failed Effort

Just as there was a Temperance movement that backed the Prohibition movement, soon after the enactment of the law, there were movements to get away with the law. The dream of bringing down alcoholism, crime and murder by the Temperance movement failed to materialized. People became weary of the unsuccessful Prohibition act and began to join the Anti-Prohibition movement. Americans were fond of their hard-drinks. There were many people who argued drinking was said to be 'respectable' in some cases.

The officers who imposed the Act were few and most of them were corrupt. Thus, instead of helping curb the excessive drinking, it bought fought new problems. People began to argue that alcohol consumption was a local issue and the Constitution had nothing to do with it. The Stock Market Crash in 1929 leading to The Great Depression. Soon, people were in need for jobs and the Government needed money. The only solution that could prove beneficial for both the Government and people was legalization of alcohol. Alcohol production will lead to more job openings and more sales tax for the cash-stripped Government.

The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution lead to the official forgo of the 18th Amendment. Thus, alcohol manufacture, sale and transportation was once again legalized. The law was back to square one. The most important fact remains that it was the first and only Amendment of the US history that was repealed.

This was all about the Prohibition in the 1920s in America. The Act was not very carefully drafted, which lead to its poor enactment. The desired effect was not felt on the American family and the roaring twenties were not left high and dry as expected by the Temperance movement.