Monday, January 16, 2012


On January 16, 1919 the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution prohibiting the manufacturing, sales, or transportation of alcoholic beverages became law.  It was followed up with the Volstead Act in October of 1919 enabling the enforcement of prohibition, including the creation of a special unit of the Treasury Department.

Prohibition had long been the objective of the temperance movement which was mostly made up of Evangelical Protestants who believed abstinence from alcohol was the only way to prevent drunkenness.  The victims of alcohol abuse were women and children due to economic deprivation and domestic violence.  Because of this, women went to the streets in support of the temperance movement.

Out of the enforcement of the 18th Amendment was born bootlegging, rum runners, and speakeasies.  This period was also known as the Roaring Twenties.   In order to gain admittance to their favorite "Speakeasy", people would learn the password then enter to party the night away drinking and dancing.  That is until they were discovered and "raided".  Speakeasy owners quickly learned it would cost them to stay in business and protected.  They had to pay off their local police department, Federal Prohibition Agents, district attorneys, and the Mafia. 

Also born of prohibition was moonshine and home produced whiskey made in stills.  The producers and smugglers worked at night to avoid detection thus the name "moonshine".  Revenuers were always on the lookout, would prowl the woods and destroy their stills.

The Act failed to prevent the large-scale distribution of alcoholic beverages, and organized crime flourished in America.  In 1933 the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed repealing prohibition.

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