Sunday, August 19, 2012

Prohibition - A Sobering Time in History

  • Prohibition of alcohol was known simply as Prohibition and referred to the banning of the manufacture, transportation, import, export, and sale of alcohol and alcoholic beverages.  
  • The supporters of Prohibition were known as Dries.
  • During the 1800s and the early 1900s, Prohibition became a big issue, and everybody had their own opinion of it.  Before elections, politicians were asked where they stood on Prohibition.  Those who admitted to Wet tendencies, knew they would lose thousands of votes.
  • The Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League were fundamental supporters of Prohibition. They published cartoons, posters and leaflets and spread them all over the country.
  • The Temperance Movement was the first serious anti-alcohol movement in the U.S.  In the early 1800s, the average American male drank 7 gallons of alcohol a year.  This movement took root in America's Protestant churches.  At first they campaigned for moderation, but then pushed toward no drinking at all.
  • The 18th Amendment abolished the sale or consumption of alcohol in the U.S. Congress voted its approval in October 1919, and enacted it into law as the National Prohibition Act of 1920. 
  • Maryland did not enforce Prohibition.  Maryland felt Prohibition was an infringement of its state right to control alcohol within its borders.  Not everyone was in favor of Prohibition, and from the beginning even the other states kept up the flow of alcohol with the help of gangsters and the speakeasy.
  • Bootlegging was the term used for illegally transporting liquor to either sell or use.  It became a booming business and made it easy for small-time crooks to become big-time crooks. In the 1880s, bootlegging referred to hiding flasks of illegal liquor inside boots.
  • Prohibition was enforced by poorly paid agents and commissioners.  There was one agent for every 200,000 square miles.  The agents were easily bribed and corrupted by gangsters, who would do anything to keep their profitable alcohol rackets alive.  Despite this, there were successful agents, like Isadore Einstein and Moe Smith, who, between the two, made over 4,000 arrests.
  • In 1921, the agents seized 414,000 gallons of alcohol.  Eight years later, in 1929, they seized 11,860,000 gallons.  This shows how much corruption was going on and how Prohibition had failed.  
  • Gangsters like Al Capone (Public Enemy No. 1) and Bugsy Moran used Prohibition to their advantage.  With large mob gangs, they smuggled in alcohol across every border and ocean.  Their profits were massive, estimated about $2 billion a year. 
  • After the Wall Street Crash, people across America became penniless and desperate.  The unpopularity of Prohibition grew like wild fire.  People felt that Prohibition was having detrimental effects on their lives, and they wanted to end the gang culture that had grown to dangerous heights.  
  • Eventually, Prohibition was repealed.  Alcohol became legal again in December of 1933.
  • The 21st Amendment to the Constitution is the only Amendment that repeals a previous Amendment.  It repealed the 18th Amendment which prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol. 
Tomorrow the speakeasy will be in the spotlight.