Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages that remained in place from 1920 to 1933. It was promoted by the “dry” crusaders, a movement led by rural Protestants and social Progressives in the Democratic and Republican parties, and was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League, and theWoman’s Christian Temperance Union. Prohibition was mandated under the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Enabling legislation, known as the Volstead Act, set down the rules for enforcing the ban and defined the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited. For example, religious uses of wine were allowed. Private ownership and consumption of alcohol were not made illegal under federal law; however, in many areas, local laws were stricter, with some states banning possession outright. Nationwide, Prohibition ended with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, on December 5, 1933.
Take a Look!
A man carries a case of ‘Four Roses’ whiskey on his shoulder, possibly confiscated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Bureau.
New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches as agents pour liquor into a sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition
Policeman stands alongside a wrecked car and several cases of moonshine
Stop when you see this sign! The Bureau of Prohibition adopted a special insignia plate for use by prohibition agents in stopping suspected automobiles.
Prohibition marked one of the last stages of the Progressive Era. During the 19th century, alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling addiction, and a variety of other social ills and abuses led to the activism to try to cure the perceived problems in society. Among other things, this led many communities in the late 19th and early 20th century to introduce alcohol prohibition, with the subsequent enforcement in law becoming a hotly debated issue. Prohibition supporters, called dries, presented it as a victory for public morals and health. Anti-prohibitionists, known as wets, criticized the alcohol ban as an intrusion of mainly rural Protestant ideals on a central aspect of urban, immigrant, and Catholic life. Although popular opinion believes that Prohibition failed, it succeeded in cutting overall alcohol consumption in half during the 1920s, and consumption remained below pre-Prohibition levels until the 1940s, suggesting that Prohibition did socialize a significant proportion of the population in temperate habits, at least temporarily. Some researchers contend that its political failure is attributable more to a changing historical context than to characteristics of the law itself. Criticism remains that Prohibition led to unintended consequences such as the growth of urban crime organizations. As an experiment it lost supporters every year, and lost tax revenue that governments needed when the Great Depression began in 1929.
After a thrilling chase through the busiest streets of Washington, a couple of bootleggers and their car are apprehended by the Capitol police.
Woman holds a poster that reads; Abolish Prohibition!
Woman seated at a soda fountain table pours alcohol into her cup from a cane. Note the large Coca-Cola advertisement on the wall,
Women and the ballot box- Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform
Original Photos By: Library of Congress