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Prohibition and the Masses

About Prohibition


Brief Summary of Prohibition:

The nation-wide Prohibition of alcohol began as many grassroots movements. The reasons for Prohibition are countless, but the overarching reasoning was to improve society. The prohibition of alcohol was passed into law as the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1919. To read the text of the Eighteenth Amendment, click here. Constitutional amendments are very hard to pass or repeal (remove). In fact, the only Amendment ever repealed was the Eighteenth Amendment! For more information, click here. Although people had high hopes for Prohibition, many of the social ills present before Prohibition increased dramatically. Although less people drank at the beginning of Prohibition this was a temporary trend; shortly thereafter, alcohol consumption increased. Additionally, alcohol become more dangerous to drink because all manufacturing operations had to be secretive and the government could no longer regulate the quality of alcohol. Crime also increased with more bootleggers and rumrunners; distillery operations; distribution schemes; and more sophisticated, "organized" criminals. Corruption of public officials and law enforcement agencies was wide-spread. Law enforcement agencies, the judicial system, and jails were stretched to the limits, working far beyond their capacities. Prohibition was eventually repealed with the Twenty-first Amendment in 1932. To read the text of the Twenty-first Amendment, click here. It was decided then that each state should be able to individually regulate alcohol, which would allow for better creation and administration of laws specific to each state's needs.


Brief Chronology of Prohibition:

  • 1917--Senate and House of Representatives vote in favor of the Eighteenth Amendment
  • 1919--Nebraska becomes the thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment

Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution proclaimed to become effective Jan 16, 1920

  • 1920--Prohibition Amendment effective
  • 1928--Republican party in national platform pledges itself for enforcement of all laws

Democratic party in national platform calls for effort to enforce Eighteenth Amendment

Herbert Hoover is elected President

  • 1932--Republican party in national platform adopts “wet-moist-dry” platform

Democratic party in national platform adopts outright Repeal platform

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected President.

  • 1933--Blaine Repeal Resolution passed by Senate and House of Representatives

Michigan holds first Convention in United States for Ratification of Twenty-first Amendment (Repeal Amendment)

Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Utah are the thirty-fourth, -fifth, and -sixth states to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment

The Eighteenth Amendment is officially repealed


Source for Brief Summary: Thornton, Mark. Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure. The Cato Institute: Washington D.C. (1991).

Source for Timeline: Root, Grace. Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. Harper & Brothers Publishers: New York (1934).