We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
Prohibition took effect with the passing of the Volstead Act, Ivan the Terrible became the first Tsar of Russia, Adolf Hitler retreated to his bunker in Berlin, and the Shah of Iran fled Iran in This Day in History video. The date is January 16. Hitler later committed suicide in his bunker.
On this day in 1919 - Prohibition takes effect in the US
Today, January 16, 1919, 102 years ago, the law enforcing The Prohibition in the United States was ratified. The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes.”
Here our man in Brooklyn, Tom Deignan looks at Michael A. Lerner's book "Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City".
Back in the early 2000s President George W. Bush was at the time repeatedly accused of exploiting 9/11 and the ensuing Iraq War. Critics charged that the Bush administration had labeled critics of their Iraq policies as disloyal and un-American. Of course, this is not the first time such a state of affairs has existed in the United States.
In fact, as a book about Manhattan during the early 20th century indicates, World War I saw similar divisions created. Back then, Irish immigrants and Irish Americans played a key role in the direction of U.S. domestic and international policy.
These events also gave rise to Irish mobsters, not to mention gangsters from many other ethnic backgrounds.
Michael A. Lerner's book "Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City" (Harvard University Press) revisits the so-called "noble experiment" of prohibition when alcohol was outlawed in 1920 the way narcotics are today.
Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City.
Obviously, given rampant stereotypes about the Irish and drink, it may seem unfortunate that Irish America is linked to this topic. But as Lerner notes, this issue was about a whole lot more than booze.
When you look at who was for and against prohibition, it is clear that the Irish were on one side while more respectable, middle class, and heavily Protestant groups were on the other side.
The two sides came to be known as "wets" (against prohibition) and "dries."
More broadly, prohibition became one battle in a much larger culture war which included attacks against Irish-dominated Tammany Hall, as well as Irish American skepticism about America's 1917 entrance into World War I.
Inevitably, some of Irish America's most famous politicians entered the fray. Typically, because Irish American Democrats were such a large part of their constituency, Irish politicians spoke out against the "dries."
"New York ultimately produced many of the nation's most outspoken wet political leaders, including James J. Walker, the city's "nightclub mayor," Lerner writes about the famously dashing Irish mayor. Lerner adds that "Governor Al Smith's bid for the presidency offered the first real hope for an end to Prohibition."
Governor Al Smith and his wife.
Smith, of course, rose from Lower East Side poverty to become the first Irish Catholic to run for president, in 1928. He was the target of an anti-Catholic smear campaign to which the Ku Klux Klan and others contributed.
His opposition to prohibition was taken as a sign by many respectable citizens that "those people" should never be allowed to run the country.
As Lerner notes, the Irish and other ethnic groups dominated Tammany Hall. Central to this political machine's operation was the saloon.
This was not just a place to get drunk, but a meeting place to exchange gossip, swap favors and meet and greet potential voters. By shutting down the saloon, many Irish Americans felt "dries" were actually targeting the Democratic Party organization in New York City and urban centers all across America.
"Dries" were also not above using prohibition to question the patriotism of the Irish. As the debate over prohibition heated up, America entered World War I in 1917.
A photograph taken in a busy New York bar just minutes before the law went into effect.
Don't forget, the U.S. allied itself with Ireland's mortal enemy, Britain, in that battle. That was trouble enough. But those allies were fighting the Germans, another large ethnic group in New York at the time.
Many prohibitionists felt that anti-British sentiment felt by Irish and German Americans was "un-American."
Couldn't the same be said about their insistence on keeping the saloon open? After all, why waste barley and other grains making booze when those precious commodities could be used toward the war effort?
In the end, as Lerner and many others have noted, prohibition was a spectacular failure. In fact, it succeeded in doing one thing - fueling organized crime, which distributed booze illegally.
Irish gangsters such as Bugs Moran, Deanie O'Banion, Owney "the Killer" Madden and "Mad Dog" Coll used bootlegging to make money and spill blood on the streets of New York, Chicago and other cities, as they battled for their share of the lucrative illegal booze market.
National prohibition officially ended in 1933, though it should be noted that literally hundreds of villages and towns across the U.S. remain legally "dry."
* Originally published in January 2016. Updated January 2021.
Sign up to IrishCentral's newsletter to stay up-to-date with everything Irish!
Prohibition had been an important issue during the U.S. presidential election of 1928, but Herbert Hoover’s win over Al Smith ensured that what Hoover called an “experiment, noble in motive” would continue. As the Great Depression continued to grind on, however, and it became increasingly clear that the Volstead Act was unenforceable, Prohibition faded as a political issue. In March 1933, shortly after taking office, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which amended the Volstead Act and permitted the manufacturing and sale of low-alcohol beer and wines (up to 3.2 percent alcohol by volume). Nine months later, on December 5, 1933, Prohibition was repealed at the federal level with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment (which allowed prohibition to be maintained at the state and local levels, however).
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.
How Prohibition Worked
Beer. Wine. Liquor. Hooch. Moonshine. Whatever kind of alcohol you prefer (or don't, for that matter), you can't argue that it has a pretty strong grip on American society. The alcohol industry spends more than $2 billion a year on advertising — bombarding TV watchers with racy commercials, splashing beer logos around stadiums and sponsoring NASCAR race cars. It's hard to believe that less than a century ago, a country that now so clearly embraces alcohol tried its best to completely abolish it.
From 1920 to 1933, the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution forbade the sale, manufacture and importation of alcohol (interestingly, the actual act of drinking it was not illegal). This 13-year period was called Prohibition. Support for the legislation had been gaining ground for decades through the anti-alcohol efforts of the temperance movement, which finally achieved its goal of a nationwide ban.
The United States was a very different place when Prohibition was enacted. World War I was just coming to a close, and women and minorities still lacked the right to vote. So why did so many people spend so much time and effort trying to get rid of alcohol? In this article, you'll learn why and how Prohibition was enacted. You'll also find out how it affected the economy, organized crime and corruption — and how it was eventually reversed, much to the relief of future fraternity boys everywhere.
The idea of banning alcohol in the United States started to pick up steam in the 1830s, long before Prohibition was instated. Many people believed that alcohol was strongly connected to insanity, poverty and many of the world's evils, and so the temperance movement gained momentum. The number of people opposed to "demon rum" grew exponentially. Before long, thousands of societies sprouted up that were dedicated to promoting temperance. Hundreds of thousands of supporters helped spread the word, and early temperance laws began to take shape.
In 1838, Massachusetts created a law that made it possible to buy hard liquor only in large quantities, so working-class citizens wouldn't be able to purchase it. And in 1846, Maine became the first state to pass a statewide Prohibition law. This encouraged other cities and counties to go "dry."
In the 1850s, the First Reform Era began with the intent of bringing change to certain areas of society, namely slavery. The anti-alcohol movement followed suit — at this time, Irish and German immigrants were the focus of reformers. Much of the initial successes happened in rural America, specifically the Western and Southern states. Big-city folk were not nearly as interested in giving up alcohol as those in the Bible Belt were.
The Civil War sucked some of the life out of the Prohibition cause, albeit temporarily. After the war ended, a boom in the liquor industry, which led to increased alcohol consumption, rekindled the movement's fire. A couple of major forces in the Prohibition movement were created at this time:
- The Prohibition Party formed in 1869 when political advocates grew tired of Republicans and Democrats avoiding the issue. The party platform contended that outlawing alcohol would be the end of social and political corruption.
- The Women's Christian Temperance Union was formed in 1873 when 70 women from Hillsboro, Ohio, prayed on the floor of local saloons after a rousing pro-temperance sermon at a church. Eventually, the group's membership spread nationally, and it became a major political force.
Temperance: enjoying healthful things in moderation and abstaining completely from unhealthful things
Moonshine: illegal alcohol distilled at home
Wets: those opposed to Prohibition
Drys: those in favor of Prohibition
Bootlegging: the illegal manufacture, sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages
Speakeasies: illegal drinking establishments
Bathtub gin/hooch: moonshine
Rum runners: people who smuggled alcohol
Giggle water: alcohol
Setup: soda or ginger ale served in speakeasies. Patrons then added alcohol from a hip or thigh flask.
The groups dedicated to encouraging temperance had a number of reasons for it. They believed there to be a direct link between alcohol and many antisocial behaviors, like child abuse and domestic violence. Another famous concern was that of Henry Ford, who believed that alcohol had a negative impact on labor productivity.
Anti-German sentiment during World War I helped catapult the issue into law. Many of the nation's breweries were operated by German immigrants, also known as "alien enemies" by the Anti-Saloon League. The sentiment was that the grain being produced should be used to feed soldiers rather than produce alcohol.
Many others fought this growing issue tooth-and-nail. The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment and the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform were just two of these groups.
Despite the efforts of anti-prohibition groups, support gathered for a ban on alcohol, and Congress passed the 18th Amendment on Jan. 16, 1919 (it went into effect in 1920). The amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, export, import and transportation of alcoholic beverages — but stopped short of banning personal possession and consumption.
Basically, if your wine cellar was already stocked, you didn't have much to worry about. The 18th Amendment brought to a national level what was already accepted in many states. Sixty-five percent of the country, including 19 states, had already banned alcohol on a local level.
The Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, was crucial to the success of the 18th Amendment — it provided the federal government with enforcing ability. It also defined criminal penalties, exceptions (medicinal and religious-ceremony use) and the alcohol levels that qualified as "intoxicating." Any beverage with more than 0.5 percent alcohol was over the legal limit.
Once alcohol was made illegal, people had to find other ways to get it. Enter organized crime, specifically Al Capone. Chicago-area gangster John Torrio took Capone under his wing, and Capone eventually took over Torrio's organization, bringing the crime ring of brothels, speakeasies, breweries and distilleries to new heights. At the peak of his success, his "businesses" yielded more than $100 million a year. Eventually, the corrupt mayor, who had decided not to fraternize with him anymore, forced him out of Chicago. Despite a morbidly impressive resume of tax evasion, murder and other crimes, Capone served only a small amount of time behind bars. He was eventually released for health reasons and died in 1947 from cardiac arrest following complications from syphilis.
More and more ordinary people, elected officials, newspaper columnists, economists, doctors, judges and even the Surgeon General of the United States are concluding that the effects of our drug control policy are at least as harmful as the effects of drugs themselves.
After decades of criminal prohibition and intensive law enforcement efforts to rid the country of illegal drugs, violent traffickers still endanger life in our cities, a steady stream of drug offenders still pours into our jails and prisons, and tons of cocaine, heroin and marijuana still cross our borders unimpeded.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposes criminal prohibition of drugs. Not only is prohibition a proven failure as a drug control strategy, but it subjects otherwise law-abiding citizens to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for what they do in private. In trying to enforce the drug laws, the government violates the fundamental rights of privacy and personal autonomy that are guaranteed by our Constitution. The ACLU believes that unless they do harm to others, people should not be punished -- even if they do harm to themselves. There are better ways to control drug use, ways that will ultimately lead to a healthier, freer and less crime-ridden society.
Currently Illegal Drugs Have Not Always Been Illegal
During the Civil War, morphine (an opium derivative and cousin of heroin) was found to have pain-killing properties and soon became the main ingredient in several patent medicines. In the late 19th century, marijuana and cocaine were put to various medicinal uses -- marijuana to treat migraines, rheumatism and insomnia, and cocaine to treat sinusitis, hay fever and chronic fatigue. All of these drugs were also used recreationally, and cocaine, in particular, was a common incredient in wines and soda pop -- including the popular Coca Cola.
At the turn of the century, many drugs were made illegal when a mood of temperance swept the nation. In 1914, Congress passed the Harrison Act, banning opiates and cocaine. Alcohol prohibition quickly followed, and by 1918 the U.S. was officially a "dry" nation. That did not mean, however, an end to drug use. It meant that, suddenly, people were arrested and jailed for doing what they had previously done without government interference. Prohibition also meant the emergence of a black market, operated by criminals and marked by violence.
In 1933, because of concern over widespread organized crime, police corruption and violence, the public demanded repeal of alcohol prohibition and the return of regulatory power to the states. Most states immediately replaced criminal bans with laws regulating the quality, potency and commercial sale of alcohol as a result, the harms associated with alcohol prohibition disappeared. Meanwhile, federal prohibition of heroin and cocaine remained, and with passage of the Marijuana Stamp Act in 1937 marijuana was prohibited as well. Federal drug policy has remained strictly prohibitionist to this day.
Decades of Drug Prohibition: A History of Failure
Criminal prohibition, the centerpiece of U.S. drug policy, has failed miserably. Since 1981, tax dollars to the tune of $150 billion have been spent trying to prevent Columbian cocaine, Burmese heroin and Jamaican marijuana from penetrating our borders. Yet the evidence is that for every ton seized, hundreds more get through. Hundreds of thousands of otherwise law abiding people have been arrested and jailed for drug possession. Between 1968 and 1992, the annual number of drug-related arrests increased from 200,000 to over 1.2 million. One-third of those were marijuana arrests, most for mere possession.
The best evidence of prohibition's failure is the government's current war on drugs. This war, instead of employing a strategy of prevention, research, education and social programs designed to address problems such as permanent poverty, long term unemployment and deteriorating living conditions in our inner cities, has employed a strategy of law enforcement. While this military approach continues to devour billions of tax dollars and sends tens of thousands of people to prison, illegal drug trafficking thrives, violence escalates and drug abuse continues to debilitate lives. Compounding these problems is the largely unchecked spread of the AIDS virus among drug-users, their sexual partners and their offspring.
Those who benefit the most from prohibition are organized crime barons, who derive an estimated $10 to $50 billion a year from the illegal drug trade. Indeed, the criminal drug laws protect drug traffickers from taxation, regulation and quality control. Those laws also support artificially high prices and assure that commercial disputes among drug dealers and their customers will be settled not in courts of law, but with automatic weapons in the streets.
Drug Prohibition is a Public Health Menace
Drug prohibition promises a healthier society by denying people the opportunity to become drug users and, possibly, addicts. The reality of prohibition belies that promise.
No quality control. When drugs are illegal, the government cannot enact standards of quality, purity or potency. Consequently, street drugs are often contaminated or extremely potent, causing disease and sometimes death to those who use them.
Dirty needles. Unsterilized needles are known to transmit HIV among intravenous drug users. Yet drug users share needles because laws prohibiting possession of drug paraphernalia have made needles a scarce commodity. These laws, then, actually promote epidemic disease and death. In New York City, more than 60 percent of intravenous drug users are HIV positive. By contrast, the figure is less than one percent in Liverpool, England, where clean needles are easily available.
Scarce treatment resources. The allocation of vast sums of money to law enforcement diminishes the funds available for drug education, preventive social programs and treatment. As crack use rose during the late 1980s, millions of dollars were spent on street-level drug enforcement and on jailing tens of thousands of low level offenders, while only a handful of public drug treatment slots were created. An especially needy group -- low-income pregnant women who abused crack -- often had no place to go at all because Medicaid would not reimburse providers. Instead, the government prosecuted and jailed such women without regard to the negative consequences for their children.
Drug Prohibition Creates More Problems Than It Solves
Drug prohibition has not only failed to curb or reduce the harmful effects of drug use, it has created other serious social problems.
Caught in the crossfire. In the same way that alcohol prohibition fueled violent gangsterism in the 1920s, today's drug prohibition has spawned a culture of drive-by shootings and other gun-related crimes. And just as most of the 1920s violence was not committed by people who were drunk, most of the drug-related violence today is not committed by people who are high on drugs. The killings, then and now, are based on rivalries: Al Capone ordered the executions of rival bootleggers, and drug dealers kill their rivals today. A 1989 government study of all 193 "cocaine-related" homicides in New York City found that 87 percent grew out of rivalries and disagreements related to doing business in an illegal market. In only one case was the perpetrator actually under the influence of cocaine.
A Nation of Jailers. The "lock 'em up" mentality of the war on drugs has burdened our criminal justice system to the breaking point. Today, drug-law enforcement consumes more than half of all police resources nationwide, resources that could be better spent fighting violent crimes like rape, assault and robbery.
The recent steep climb in our incarceration rate has made the U.S. the world's leading jailer, with a prison population that now exceeds one million people, compared to approximately 200,000 in 1970. Nonviolent drug offenders make up 58 percent of the federal prison population, a population that is extremely costly to maintain. In 1990, the states alone paid $12 billion, or $16,000 per prisoner. While drug imprisonments are a leading cause of rising local tax burdens, they have neither stopped the sale and use of drugs nor enhanced public safety.
Not Drug Free -- Just Less Free. We now have what some constitutional scholars call "the drug exception to the Bill of Rights." Random drug testing without probable cause, the militarization of drug law enforcement, heightened wiretapping and other surveillance, the enactment of vaguely worded loitering laws and curfews, forfeiture of people's homes and assets, excessive and mandatory prison terms -- these practices and more have eroded the constitutional rights of all Americans.
Prohibition Is A Destructive Force In Inner City Communities
Inner city communities suffer most from both the problem of drug abuse and the consequences of drug prohibition.
Although the rates of drug use among white and non-white Americans are similar, African Americans and other racial minorities are arrested and imprisoned at higher rates. For example, according to government estimates only 12 percent of drug users are black, but nearly 40 percent of those arrested for drug offenses are black. Nationwide, one-quarter of all young African American men are under some form of criminal justice supervision, mostly for drug offenses. This phenomenon has had a devastating social impact in minority communities. Moreover, the abuse of drugs, including alcohol, has more dire consequences in impoverished communities where good treatment programs are least available.
Finally, turf battles and commercial disputes among competing drug enterprises, as well as police responses to those conflicts, occur disproportionately in poor communities, making our inner cities war zones and their residents the war's primary casualties.
Drugs Are Here to Stay -- Let's Reduce Their Harm
The universality of drug use throughout human history has led some experts to conclude that the desire to alter consciousness, for whatever reasons, is a basic human drive. People in almost all cultures, in every era, have used psychoactive drugs. Native South Americans take coca-breaks the way we, in this country, take coffee-breaks. Native North Americans use peyote and tobacco in their religious ceremonies the way Europeans use wine. Alcohol is the drug of choice in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, while many Muslim countries tolerate the use of opium and marijuana.
A "drug free America" is not a realistic goal, and by criminally banning psychoactive drugs the government has ceded all control of potentially dangerous substances to criminals. Instead of trying to stamp out all drug use, our government should focus on reducing drug abuse and prohibition-generated crime. This requires a fundamental change in public policy: repeal of criminal prohibition and the creation of a reasonable regulatory system.
Ending Prohibition Would Not Necessarily Increase Drug Abuse
While it is impossible to predict exactly how drug use patterns would change under a system of regulated manufacture and distribution, the iron rules of prohibition are that 1) illegal markets are controlled by producers, not consumers, and 2) prohibition fosters the sale and consumption of more potent and dangerous forms of drugs.
During alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, bootleggers marketed small bottles of 100-plus proof liquor because they were easier to conceal than were large, unwieldy kegs of beer. The result: Consumption of beer and wine went down while consumption of hard hard liquor went up. Similarly, contemporary drug smugglers' preference for powdered cocaine over bulky, pungent coca leaves encourages use of the most potent and dangerous cocaine products. In contrast, under legal conditions, consumers -- most of whom do not wish to harm themselves -- play a role in determining the potency of marketed products, as indicated by the popularity of today's light beers, wine coolers and decaffeinated coffees.Once alcohol prohibition was repealed, consumption increased somewhat, but the rate of liver cirrhosis went down because people tended to choose beer and wine over the more potent, distilled spirits previously promoted by bootleggers. So, even though the number of drinkers went up, the health risks of drinking went down. The same dynamic would most likely occur with drug legalization: some increase in drug use, but a decrease in drug abuse.
Another factor to consider is the lure of forbidden fruit. For young people, who are often attracted to taboos, legal drugs might be less tempting than they are now. That has been the experience of The Netherlands: After the Dutch government decriminalized marijuana in 1976, allowing it to be sold and consumed openly in small amounts, usage steadily declined -- particularly among teenagers and young adults. Prior to decriminalization, 10 percent of Dutch 17- and 18-year-olds used marijuana. By 1985, that figure had dropped to 6.5 percent.
Would drugs be more available once prohibition is repealed? It is hard to imagine drugs being more available than they are today. Despite efforts to stem their flow, drugs are accessible to anyone who wants them. In a recent government-sponsored survey of high school seniors, 55 percent said it would be "easy" for them to obtain cocaine, and 85 percent said it would be "easy" for them to obtain marijuana. In our inner-cities, access to drugs is especially easy, and the risk of arrest has proven to have a negligible deterrent effect. What would change under decriminalization is not so much drug availability as the conditions under which drugs would be available. Without prohibition, providing help to drug abusers who wanted to kick their habits would be easier because the money now being squandered on law enforcement could be used for preventive social programs and treatment.
What The United States Would Look Like After Repeal
Some people, hearing the words "drug legalization," imagine pushers on street corners passing out cocaine to anyone -- even children. But that is what exists today under prohibition. Consider the legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco: Their potency, time and place of sale and purchasing age limits are set by law. Similarly, warning labels are required on medicinal drugs, and some of these are available by prescription only.
After federal alcohol prohibition was repealed, each state developed its own system for regulating the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages. The same could occur with currently illegal drugs. For example, states could create different regulations for marijuana, heroin and cocaine.
Ending prohibition is not a panacea. It will not by itself end drug abuse or eliminate violence. Nor will it bring about the social and economic revitalization of our inner cities. However, ending prohibition would bring one very significant benefit: It would sever the connection between drugs and crime that today blights so many lives and communities. In the long run, ending prohibition could foster the redirection of public resources toward social development, legitimate economic opportunities and effective treatment, thus enhancing the safety, health and well-being of the entire society.
Reefer Madness Is Born
Anyone wondering “Why is cannabis illegal?” in today’s world need only look to the furor that snowballed throughout the 1930s. Even some members of the medical community got on board with stoking cannabis fears. In 1931, Dr. A. E. Fossier wrote an article for the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal. In part, it read: “Under the influence of hashish those fanatics would madly rush at their enemies, and ruthlessly massacre every one within their grasp.”
Dramatic propaganda ads presented marijuana as a “Weed with Roots In HELL” that led to “WEIRD ORGIES,” “WILD PARTIES,” and “UNLEASHED PASSIONS.” Parents were warned that marijuana was “A vicious racket with its arms around your children!”
In 1936, a church group made a film that was originally titled Tell Your Children. In it, high school students try marijuana and pay a high price. Some of the over-the-top results of their descent into “drug-crazed abandon” are hallucinations, insanity, manslaughter, and a hit-and-run accident, to name a few. The film was screened in various areas of the country and also went by the titles Doped Youth, The Burning Question, and Reefer Madness.
Despite its origins as anti-marijuana propaganda film, by the 1970s, Reefer Madness had lost its shock value, becoming a laughable cult classic among cannabis policy reformists. In fact, much of the old anti-marijuana propaganda ads and films seem laughable today when they are separated from the movement’s racist origins.
Marijuana criminalization propaganda: anti-marijuana films like “Reefer Madness” represented cannabis as a dangerous and deadly drug.
What finally got the 18th Amendment repealed?
Women made Prohibition happen, but it was also women who brought about the end of it. Wealthy New York socialite and suffragist Pauline Morton Sabin founded an organization called Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. [Initially] she had supported Prohibition, but she had two sons and they had no regard for the Prohibition laws, as did very few of her friends. How will her sons grow up with any respect for the rule of law if they see that Prohibition is in the Constitution, the basic document of American government, and it’s being violated openly on a daily basis?
But the primary straw was the stock market crash and ensuing Depression, because federal tax revenue disappeared, and the government was running on fumes. It goes back to how Prohibition was created. There could be no Prohibition until the income tax because the federal government needed money. Once that&rsquos in place, you can get rid of the liquor tax, you don’t need to collect money on the sale of liquor. But when you get to 1929, incomes plummet and capital gains disappear. The country is desperate for revenue, and there was one obvious place to get revenue back: the tax on alcohol. And in fact, in 1934, the first 9% of federal revenue came from the new liquor taxes. [The return of the alcohol industry] was a phenomenal jobs program, not only in the distilleries and breweries, but also in bottle makers, cork makers, trucks, barrels, distribution.
What are some of the legacies of Prohibition?
Men and women were drinking together for the first time &mdash a major change in social life in this country. Because the sale of alcohol was against the law beginning in 1919, speakeasies thought, “We’re breaking rules. Let’s break some more rules. Women, come too.” If you have men and women drinking together for the first time, you&rsquore probably going to have food and music. The American cabaret and nightclubs were born because of Prohibition.
Speedboat technology. The U.S. Coast Guard was trying to patrol the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, so it would pay shipyards to build fast boats and bootleggers would pay shipyards to build faster boats, and the competition fostered improvement in the product.
And before Prohibition, federal crimes largely had to do with white collar crimes. The federal law-enforcement and court systems grew vastly larger with more authority over criminal matters. Organized crime existed pre-Prohibition, but on the local level. When you have the need to move physical goods from one part of the country to another, you need cooperators in other cities. In 1929, in Atlantic City, mob leaders from six cities got together and established no-competition territories, set prices, rules of adjudication. The national crime syndicate was a direct product of Prohibition.
Is there any link between today’s speakeasies and their trendy artisanal cocktails and the real history of Prohibition?
The idea of brands of whiskey does come from Prohibition because of the concern people had about the quality of alcohol being distributed illegally in the s. There was a belief you were safer with brand names. Mixed drinks are definitely from Prohibition. The quality of alcohol was so bad that you had to disguise the flavor by adding tonic, fruit juice or ginger ale so it would not taste so horrible. But there were no passwords and peep holes in New York or Chicago by 1925 and 1926. If you wanted a drink, you knew where the place was. The mythos of speakeasy culture is a product of Hollywood, not of Prohibition.
You mentioned earlier that a public-health crisis led to Prohibition. What kind of impact did repeal have on public health?
The public health view of alcohol came out of a repeal. This stuff is back, let&rsquos be careful. When Seagram’s &mdash which had been the largest bootlegger during Prohibition, and then one of the largest distributors of legal alcohol &mdash brought alcohol back, its campaign was “drink sensibly.” Selling liquor with the notion of drinking in moderation had never occurred before.
The Bitter Aftertaste of Prohibition in American History
For many, Prohibition recalls a freewheeling era in American history with speakeasies, bootlegging, gangsters and G-men. But new scholarship shows that several factors beyond the obvious underlay the 1920 ban on the manufacture and sale of intoxicating beverages.
“They’re fighting over alcohol, but they’re also fighting over immigration and identity in the country,” says Jon Grinspan, a curator of political history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, who appears in the new two-part Smithsonian Channel documentary miniseries on the era, “Drinks, Crime and Prohibition.”
The American push to ban alcohol for health and moral reasons had been growing since the days of the temperance movement in the mid-19th century. While individual states and localities went dry, it wasn’t until 1917 that Congress passed a resolution to submit a constitutional amendment for a ban that was sent to the states for ratification. Thirty-six states needed to ratify, and in 1919 they did. Prohibition officially began the following year, bringing with it a number of changes to the country, from the rise of organized crime to the concomitant increase in federal policing.
But, as Grinspan says in the documentary, “alcohol is not the central story of Prohibition. There are people who are fighting alcohol, but what they are fighting about is a clash of two civilizations in America.”
The Women's Christian Temperance Union with signs in their Seattle office (Courtesy of Ohio History Connection - AL07629)
The enemy is not just alcohol, but European immigrants, the documentary argues. Between 1892 and 1920 almost 12 million immigrants entered the U.S. through Ellis Island.
“Organizing around alcohol is in some ways a politically correct way to go after other immigrants,” Grinspan says in the documentary. “It’s not entirely polite to say, ‘I want to get all of the Catholics out of America.’ But it’s very polite to say, ‘Alcohol is ruining society.’”
“That’s one of the big changes in recent scholarship,” says Peter Liebhold, a curator in the division of work and industry at the American History Museum, who is also featured in the series. “A lot of people are looking at the success of the temperance movement as an anti-immigrant experience. It becomes code for keeping immigrants in their place.”
Grinspan is first seen in the series displaying a cast iron axe meant to poke fun at longtime temperance leader Carrie Nation, known for attacking barrooms with a hatchet. Once hung prominently in a bar, this axe bears the text “All Nations Welcome But Carrie.”
A cast iron axe that lampooned the longtime temperance leader Carrie Nation—known for attacking barrooms with a hatchet—is held in the collections of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. (NMAH)
When it comes to saloons in America, Grinspan says, “we have this misconception that they’re broken up by ethnicity and Irish people only drank with Irish people and German people only drank with German people. But there’s a great deal of mixing, especially by the 1910s of these populations.”
Slogans like “All Nations Welcome but Carrie,” he says, were “making an argument both against prohibition and for a kind of diversity within their community that the people who are opposed to alcohol and supporting prohibition are coming after.”
Indeed, part of the reason Prohibition passed was that it elicited unusual alliances—organized women who would go on to fight for suffrage worked alongside anti-immigrant hate groups as well as industrialists who didn’t like how saloons were causing drunkenness among their workers and becoming centers of power for unions and political parties.
“The idea that suffragists—women’s rights advocates—and the Ku Klux Klan, for instance, are fighting on the same side of this thing,” Grinspan says, “is really unusual.”
Women who would go on to fight for suffrage worked alongside anti-immigrant hate groups and industrialists who didn’t like how saloons were causing drunkenness among their workers. (Ohio History Connection)
“Very strange bedfellows,” agrees Liebhold. Once Prohibition was enacted, the Klan even took on its enforcement, historians say. But the coalition of different interests was successful because “they tried to stay on target of only being against alcohol consumption—and not getting snared into other issues that will break those coalitions apart,” Liebhold says. “Politically, they’re pretty astute.”
Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League is credited with combining the power of the various groups and making the movement a success where it had not been before.
Many influential backers of the cause were industrialists, who were at war with a fledgling labor movement dominated by immigrants, the film says. And the saloons, Grinspan says, “are centers of power.” At the time, there were 200,000 saloons across America—“which is 23 saloons for every Starbucks franchise there is today,” Grinspan says. “So, when World War I breaks out and there are signs for German beer all across the country in people’s communities, it’s such an obvious target.”
Wayne Wheeler, the leading strategist for the Anti-Saloon League, is credited for combining the power of the varied groups, making the temperance movement a success. (Smithsonian Channel)
Liebhold says the anti-Prohibition forces were disorganized in part because the spirit distillers didn’t really work with the brewers.
Once the states voted, approval of what became the 18th Amendment came fast, Liebhold says. “I think some people were surprised how quickly that all came about.” Suddenly, saloons, breweries and distilleries—all well-established across the country—became criminal enterprises. Crime networks grew to accommodate their old customers. And the federal response grew alongside them.
“It really empowers the federal government,” Grinspan says. “People used to see Prohibition as this one-off, weird era that didn’t really fit in with what else was going on.” But it really gave rise to vastly expanded federal law enforcement powers, he says.
“Federal prisons are a tiny portion of prisoners before Prohibition,” Grinspan says. “With the enforcement of Prohibition, the FBI, the prison system, the Department of Justice—all of these things expand greatly in the process.”
Temperance advocates warned that alcohol was detrimental to the war effort. (Smithsonian Channel)
The initial Bureau of Prohibition was established in 1920 as the first national policing force. Because it was organized outside the civil service, though, it was susceptible to corruption, the documentary says.
When a Seattle police lieutenant was arrested as a bootlegger after his phone was tapped, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1928 it wasn’t a violation of the Fourth Amendment rights related to unreasonable search and seizure—a landmark decision that led to other laws dealing with securing information from private citizens. The dissent of Justice Louis D. Brandeis was just as influential, as it cited a constitutional “right to be let alone”—words used in the Roe v. Wade decision 45 years later.
“You see this fundamental change in the government in that it starts controlling the lives of its citizens, telling them what they can and cannot do—and it’s punitive,” Liebhold says.
And suddenly, everyday people find themselves, when taking the occasional nip, lawbreakers. “Prohibition was widely flaunted by people from all walks of life,” he says. “It’s never good to have a rule nobody believes in because it takes away from the power of other laws that are important.”
During prohibition, doctors prescribed whiskey this bottle resides in the Smithsonian collections. (NMAH)
In time, industrialists changed their minds on Prohibition, finding their workers were no less drunk at work than before. Additionally, losses in alcohol excise taxes had to be made up with income taxes. By 1933, it was clear the crackdown wasn’t having the desired effects, and the ratification of the 21st Amendment did away with the Prohibition.
“Everybody was amazed at how quickly it disappeared,” Liebhold says of the 13-year-long era. “It was like a bizarre alignment of the stars and it was gone. And it never happened again. This is the only Constitutional amendment that’s ever been repealed.”
But the effects of Prohibition linger—and not only in organized crime and movies about the Al Capone era, or in the clever cocktails invented by period scofflaws (the documentary provides recipes for several of them).
Modern-day arguments about the legalization of marijuana are only the most obvious echoes of Prohibition, Liebhold says, adding, “I think the parallels today on so many issues are really incredible.”
Important Events From This day in History January 20th
2002 : Human rights activists including Amnesty International believe human rights of prisoners kept at camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are being abused with prisoners being shackled and kept in temporary eight-by-eight feet cells made of wire mesh and corrugated metal roofs and include them being handcuffed, wearing goggles, ear muffs, surgical masks and heavy gloves. The majority are held without charge and the International Committee of the Red Cross have started evaluating conditions at the US military camp and interviewing detainees to see if the captives are being treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war.
Reese Palley, a rich, famous art dealer travels to Paris, where his birthday was to be celebrated with 735 guests. At first, he had only intended on having 30 guests, but word spread. The cost of this party included $125, 000 dollars for the use of two jets.
Additionally, 370 hotel rooms at the International Hotel in Paris were reserved. Along with that, guests were taken to fine dining places such as Lasserre, La Tour D'Argent, and the Ritz.
Yassar Arafat receives over 88 percent of the popular vote and as a result is officially elected the President of the Palestinian National Council. Over the years, Arafat has been noted as one who has changed his tune, so to speak.
He used to apply guerilla warfare which accompanied terrorist tactics during his process of fighting for Palestine to become an independent state. However, in the 1980's Arafat became willing to make peace with Israel, and acknowledged Israel's right to exist along with Palestine. A peace treaty was signed between Palestine and Israel at this time.
William Jefferson ( Bill ) Clinton took the oath of office to become the 42nd president of the United States
2014 : Iran has begun to place curbs on uranium enrichment as part of a deal between the country and the United States, China, Russia and other European countries. Iran agreed to lessen their efforts at uranium enrichment in exchange for the easing of some international sanctions.
Presidential Inaugurations on January 20th ( Post 1953 ) United States US Presidents
34th Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953 to 1961
35th John F. Kennedy 1961 to November 22nd 1963 ( Assassinated )
37th Richard Nixon 1969 to August 9th 1974 ( Resigned )
39th Jimmy Carter 1977 to 1981
40th Ronald Reagan 1981 to 1989
41st George H. W. Bush 1989 to 1993
42nd Bill Clinton 1993 to 2001
43rd George W. Bush 2001 to 2009
44th Barack Obama 2009 to Current
Notes The following were not Inaugurated On January 20th for differing reasons including natural death, assassinations etc of previous president causing change in date
36th Lyndon B. Johnson November 22nd 1963 to 1969
38th Gerald Ford August 9th 1974 to 1977
For Earlier Presidential Inaugurations prior to 1953 Check March 4th for earlier Presidential Inaugurations
2013 : US President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second-term in office. There was a small ceremony in the Blue room of the White House in which President Obama took the oath of office.
Prohibition in Canada
Prohibition in Canada came about as a result of the temperance movement. It called for moderation or total abstinence from alcohol, based on the belief that drinking was responsible for many of society’s ills. The Canada Temperance Act (Scott Act) of 1878 gave local governments the “local option” to ban the sale of alcohol. Prohibition was first enacted on a provincial basis in Prince Edward Island in 1901. It became law in the remaining provinces, as well as in Yukon and Newfoundland, during the First World War. Liquor could be legally produced in Canada (but not sold there) and legally exported out of Canadian ports. Most provincial laws were repealed in the 1920s. PEI was the last to give up the “the noble experiment” in 1948.
Liquor barrels emptied into the lake at Elk Lake, Ontario, during Prohibition.
The Temperance Campaign
Prohibition was the result of generations of effort by temperance workers to close bars and taverns. They were seen as the source of much misery in an age before social welfare existed. Temperance activists and their allies believed that alcohol, especially hard liquor, was an obstacle to economic success to social cohesion and to moral and religious purity.
The main temperance organizations were the Dominion Alliance for the Total Suppression of the Liquor Traffic and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The newsletter of the latter was the Canadian White Ribbon Tidings. The Temperance struggle was connected to other reform efforts of the time, such as the women’s suffrage movement. It was also motivated in part by Social Gospel beliefs.Hillhurst Presbyterian Sunday school group, Calgary, c 1912-16.
19th Century Prohibition
Various pre-Confederation laws against the sale of alcohol had been passed, including the Dunkin Act in the Province of Canada in 1864. It allowed any county or municipality to prohibit the retail sale of liquor by majority vote. In 1878, this “local option” was extended to the whole Dominion under the Canada Temperance Act, or Scott Act.
By 1898, the temperance forces were strong enough to force a national plebiscite on the issue. But the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier decided that the majority of 13,687 votes cast in favour of prohibition was not large enough to warrant passing a law especially since Quebec had voted overwhelmingly against it. Much of the country was already “dry” under local option. Full provincial bans would eventually emerge.
Prohibition was first enacted on a provincial basis in Prince Edward Island in 1901. It became law in the remaining provinces — as well as in Yukon and in Newfoundland (which did not join Confederation until 1949) — during the First World War. Prohibition was widely seen at the time as a patriotic duty and a social sacrifice, to help win the war. (See also Wartime Home Front.)
Unlike in the United States, banning booze in Canada was complicated by the shared jurisdiction over alcohol-related laws between Ottawa and the provinces. The provinces controlled sales and consumption. The federal government oversaw the making and trading of alcohol. (See Distribution of Powers.) In March 1918, Ottawa stopped, for the remainder of the First World War, the manufacture and importation of liquor into provinces where purchase was already illegal.
Blind Pigs and Rum Running
Provincial temperance laws varied. In general, they closed legal drinking establishments and forbade the sale of alcohol as well as its possession and consumption except in a private dwelling. In some provinces, domestic wines were exempt. Alcohol could be purchased through government dispensaries for industrial, scientific, mechanical, artistic, sacramental and medicinal uses. Distillers and brewers and others properly licensed could sell outside the province.
Although enforcement was difficult, drunkenness and associated crimes declined significantly. However, illicit stills and home-brewed “moonshine” proliferated. Much inferior booze hit the streets. But good liquor was readily available, since its manufacture was permitted after the war. Bootlegging (the illegal sale of alcohol as a beverage) rose dramatically as did the number of unlawful drinking places known as “speakeasies” or “blind pigs.” One way to drink legally was to be “ill,” since doctors could give prescriptions to be filled at drugstores. Abuse of this system resulted, with veritable epidemics and long queues occurring during the Christmas holiday season.
A dramatic aspect of the prohibition era was rum running. By constitutional amendment, the United States was under even stricter prohibition from 1920 to 1933 than was Canada. The manufacture, sale, and transportation of all beer, wines, and spirits were forbidden there. Liquor could, however, be legally produced in Canada (but not sold there) and legally exported out of Canadian ports. This created the odd situation of allowing smugglers to leave Canada with shiploads of alcohol destined for their “dry” neighbour, under the protection of Canadian law. Smuggling, often accompanied by violence, erupted in border areas and along the coasts. Political cartoons in newspapers showed leaky maps of Canada with Uncle Sam attempting to stem the tide of alcohol.
Repeal of Prohibition Laws
Prohibition was too short-lived in Canada to engender any real success. Opponents maintained that it violated British traditions of individual liberty and that settling the matter by referendum or plebiscite was a departure from Canadian parliamentary practice. Quebec rejected it as early as 1919 and became known as the “sinkhole” of North America. Tourists flocked to “historic old Quebec” and the provincial government reaped huge profits from the sale of booze.
In 1920, British Columbia voted to go “wet.” By the following year, some alcoholic beverages were legally sold there and in Yukon through government stores. Manitoba inaugurated a system of government sale and control of alcohol in 1923, followed by Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1924 Newfoundland in 1925 Ontario and New Brunswick in 1927 and Nova Scotia in 1930. The last bastion, Prince Edward Island, finally gave up “the noble experiment” in 1948. Pockets of dryness under local option continued for years throughout the country.