Prohibition in the United States

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"Prohibition enforced," as illustrated by a USPS stamp.

Prohibition in the United States (1920 — 1933) was the era during which the United States government outlawed the manufacture, transportation, import, export, and sale of alcoholic beverages. It also includes the prohibition of alcohol by state action at different times, and the social-political movement to secure prohibition. At any time possession of liquor, wine or beer was illegal. Drinking alcohol was never technically illegal, but one who was drinking was liable for prosecution on the grounds that they possessed the alcohol they were drinking.


[edit] Origins

The prohibition or "dry" movement began in the 1840s, spearheaded by pietistic religious denominations, especially the Methodists. After some success in the 1850s the movement lost strength. It revived in the 1880s, with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Prohibition Party. After 1900 many states, especially in the South, enacted prohibition, along with many countries. Hostility to saloons and their political influence was characteristic of the Progressive Era. Supported by the anti-German mood of World War I, the Anti-Saloon League, working with both major parties, pushed the Constitutional amendment through Congress and the states, taking effect in 1920.

Prohibition was an important force in state and local politics from the 1840s through the 1930s. The political forces involved in the Third Party System and Fourth Party System were ethnoreligious in character. Prohibition was demanded by the "dries"—primarily pietistic Protestant denominations, especially the Methodists, Northern Baptists, Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Disciples, Congregationalists, Quakers, and Scandinavian Lutherans. They identified saloons as politically corrupt, and drinking as a personal sin. They were opposed by the "wets"—primarily liturgical Protestants (Episcopalians, German Lutherans) and Roman Catholics, who denounced the idea that the government should define morality.<ref> Jensen (1971) ch 5.</ref>

Nationwide prohibition was accomplished by means of the Eighteenth Amendment to the national Constitution (ratified January 16, 1919) and the Volstead Act (passed October 28, 1919). Prohibition began on January 16, 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect. Federal Prohibition agents (police) were given the task of enforcing the law. Principal impetus for the accomplishment of Prohibition were members of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and the Prohibition Party. It was truly a cooperative effort with "progressives" making up a substantial portion of both major political parties. The main force were pietistic Protestants, who comprised majorities in the Republican party in the North, and the Democratic party in the South. Catholics and Germans were the main opponents. The Germans were discredited during World War I, and their protests were ignored.

The 65th Congress met in 1917 and the Democratic dries outnumbered the wets by 140 to 64 while Republicans dries outnumbered the wets 138 to 62. The 1916 election saw both Democratic incumbent Woodrow Wilson and Republican candidate Charles Evans Hughes ignore the Prohibition issue, as was the case with both party's political platforms. Both Democrats and Republicans had strong wet and dry factions and the election was expected to be close, with neither candidate wanting to alienate any part of their political base.

Prohibition also referred to that part of the Temperance movement which wanted to make alcohol illegal. These groups brought about much change even prior to national prohibition. By 1905, three American states had already outlawed alcohol; by 1912, this was up to nine states; and, by 1916, legal prohibition was already in effect in 26 of the 48 states.

The Progressives claimed to be humanitarians whose stated goal was to better the lives of the common people, one of their most significant acts being passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, which ushered in the era of Prohibition.

[edit] Prohibition

The Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed nationwide prohibition, explicitly gives states the right to restrict or ban the purchase and sale of alcohol; this has led to a patchwork of laws, in which alcohol may be legally sold in some but not all towns or counties within a particular state. After the repeal of the national constitutional amendment, some states continued to enforce prohibition laws. Mississippi, which had made alcohol illegal in 1907, was the last state to repeal prohibition, in 1966. There are numerous "dry" counties or towns where no liquor is sold; even though liquor can be brought in for private consumption. It was never illegal to drink liquor in the United States.

The Volstead Act was amended to allow "3.2 beer" (3.2 percent alcohol by volume) by passage of the Blaine Act on February 17, 1933. The Eighteenth Amendment was repealed later in 1933 with ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5.

Many social problems have been attributed to the Prohibition era. A profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol flourished. Racketeering happened when powerful gangs corrupted law enforcement agencies. Stronger liquor surged in popularity because its potency made it more profitable to smuggle. The cost of enforcing prohibition was high, and the lack of tax revenues on alcohol (some $500 million annually nationwide) affected government coffers. When repeal of prohibition occurred in 1933, following passage of the Twenty-first Amendment, organized crime lost nearly all of its black market alcohol profits in most states (states still had the right to enforce their own laws concerning alcohol consumption), due to competition with low-priced alcohol sales at legal liquor stores.

Prohibition had a notable effect on the brewing industry in the United States. When Prohibition ended, only half the breweries that had previously existed reopened.

  • While the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol was illegal in the U.S., it was not illegal in surrounding countries. Distilleries and breweries in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean flourished as their products were either consumed by visiting Americans or illegally imported to the U.S.
  • The Ku Klux Klan strongly supported Prohibition and its strict enforcement [1].
  • In the 1890s, Carrie Nation of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union fought for prohibition by walking into saloons, scolding customers, and using her hatchet to destroy bottles of liquor. Other activists enforced the cause by entering saloons, singing, praying, and urging saloon keepers to stop selling alcohol [2].
  • The first beer legally sold in the United States after Prohibition was Utica Club of the F.X. Matt's Brewery in Utica, New York [3].
  • Despite the efforts of Heber J. Grant and the Mormon Church, a Utah convention helped ratify the 21st Amendment [4]. While Utah can be considered the deciding 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment and make it law, the day Utah passed the Amendment both Pennsylvania and Ohio passed it as well. All 38 states that decided to hold conventions passed the Amendment, while only 36 states were needed (three fourths of the 48 that existed). So, even if Utah hadn't passed it, it would have become law.

[edit] Bibliography

  • Behr, E. Prohibition. NY: Arcade, 1996.
  • Blocker, Jr., Jack S. Retreat from Reform: The Prohibition Movement in the United States, 1890-1913 Greenwood Press, 1976
  • Jack S. Blocker, David M. Fahey, and Ian R. Tyrrell eds. Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia 2 Vol. (2003)
  • Blocker, Jack S. Jr.; Alcohol, Reform, and Society: The Liquor Issue in Social Context Greenwood Press, 1979
  • Bordin, Ruth. Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873-1900 1981
  • Ernest Cherrington, Evolution of Prohibition in the United States (1926). by dry leader
  • Ernest Cherrington, ed., Standard Encyclopaedia of the Alcohol Problem 6 volumes (1925-1930), by dry leaders
  • Colvln D. Leigh. Prohibition in the United States (1926). from Prohibition party perspective
  • Clark; Norman H. Deliver Us From Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition. W.W. Norton , 1976. supports prohibition
  • Dannenbaum, Jed. "The Origins of Temperance Activism and Militancy among American Women", Journal of Social History vol. 14 (1981): 235-36.
  • Duis, Perry R. The Saloon: Public Drinking in Chicago and Boston, 1880-1920 (Urbana, 1983)
  • Hamm, Richard. "American Prohibitionists and Violence, 1865-1920" (1995) online with bibliography
  • Hamm, Richard; Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment: Temperance Reform, Legal Culture, and the Polity, 1880-1920 U of North Carolina Press, 1995
  • Jensen, Richard. The Winning of the Midwest, Social and Political Conflict, 1888-1896 University of Chicago Press, 1971
  • Kerr, Austin. Organized for Prohibition: A New History of the Anti-Saloon League (Yale University Press,
  • Kingsdale, Jon M. "The 'Poor Man's Club': Social Functions of the Urban Working-Class Saloon," American Quarterly vol. 25 (October, 1973): 472-89
  • Kyvig; David E. Law, Alcohol, and Order: Perspectives on National Prohibition Greenwood Press, 1985
  • Mark Lender, editor, Dictionary of American Temperance Biography Greenwood Press, 1984
  • Miron, Jeffrey A. and Jeffrey Zwiebel. “Alcohol Consumption During Prohibition.” American Economic Review 81, no. 2 (1991): 242-247.
  • Miron, Jeffrey A. "Alcohol Prohibition" Eh.Net Encyclopedia (2005) online
  • Moore, L.J. Historical interpretation of the 1920s Klan: the traditional view and the popular revision. Journal of Social History, 1990, 24 (2), 341-358.
  • Sellman; James Clyde. "Social Movements and the Symbolism of Public Demonstrations: The 1874 Women's Crusade and German Resistance in Richmond, Indiana" Journal of Social History. Volume: 32. Issue: 3. 1999. pp 557+.
  • Rumbarger; John J. Profits, Power, and Prohibition: Alcohol Reform and the Industrializing of America, 1800-1930 State University of New York Press, 1989
  • Prohibition. American Mix, 2001, 1(1), 4.
  • Sinclair; Andrew. Prohibition: The Era of Excess 1962.
  • Timberlake, James. Prohibition and the Progressive Movement, 1900-1920 Harvard University Press, 1963
  • Tracy, Sarah W. and Caroline Jean Acker; Altering American Consciousness: The History of Alcohol and Drug Use in the United States, 1800-2000 U of Massachusetts Press, 2004
  • Victor A. Walsh, "'Drowning the Shamrock': Drink, Teetotalism and the Irish Catholics of Gilded-Age Pittsburgh," Journal of American Ethnic History vol. 10, no. 1-2 (Fall 1990-Winter 1991): 60-79.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References


Prohibition in the United States

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