This term refers to the period fom 1920 to 1933 during which the sale,manufacure and transportation of alcohol were banned throughout the USA as provided in the 18th Amendment to the US constitution following the prohibiton of alcohol in some states.
The period in between the two world wars in the wold are called the « Roaring Twenties ». This is a timedefined by big changes in the american society. After the traumatism caused by the war, people wanted to have fun and tried to forget violence. It is the beginning of the Charleston and Jazz. The production of manufatured goods increased rapidly and the USA became a mass-consumption society. This growth was soon interrupted by the 29 wall street krack.
In a first part, I will present the originsof the law, and in a second part, I will describe the consequences of the Prohibition for the American society as well as for economy. Then I will talk about the repeal of the Prohibition.
And to finish, I will present you the 2 major characters of this period :the gangster Al Capone and the chief of the prohibition agents Eliot Ness.
I)The origins of the law
After the AmericanRevolution, alcohol drinking was on the rise. To fight this, many Protestant Temperance movements attempted to dissuade people from being intoxicated. Alcohol was considered one the of society’s ill, espacially crime and murder. Saloons in the West were known as debauchery places where men spent a long time neglecting their families. According to Temperance movements, banning alcohol would preventaccidents in the work place caused by workers who drank during lunch.
By 1916, over half of the US states already had statutes that prohibited alcohol.
On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amandment of the US Constitution was ratified and the Volstead Act passed October 28,1919.
Prohibition legally began on January 16 1920 when the 18th Amendment went into effect.
Although it was highlycontroversial, Prohibiton was widely supported by many groups such as the Progressives, the ‘Ku Klux Klan’, women, southeners, those living in rural areas and African-Americans. Nevertheless, there were exeptions as the « Woman’s Organization for Prohibition Reform » that fought against it.
The ‘dries’ thus opposed the ‘wets’.
II)The consequences of the Prohibiton.
1° How to drink ?
Sinceprohibition went into effect a full year after the 18t Am. Many people bought cases of then legal alcohol and stored it for personal use before the law went into effect. The Volstead Act allowed alcohol consumption if i twas prescribed by a doctor. Needles to say that a large number of new prescriptions were written for alcohol.
Those who had not bought cases of alcohol in advance or who didn’t have agood doctor had no choice but to find illegal ways to drink. Thus,even the average citizen broke the law.
2° The period of gangsters, speakeasies, bootleggers and black market.
Far from eradicating deliquency, the prohibition became a help for the mafia’s growth and many social problems have been attributed to this era. Alcohol soon became rare as an expensive product. The demand was evergrowing and gangsters rapidly saw profits. The alcohol producers were jobless and had to work illegaly. They became « bootleggers » at the gang’s mercy. Bars turned into tea rooms or grocers had back shop where they sold alcohol and where people danced. The clandestine bars were called « speakeasies » because their name had to be whispered not to be heard by federal agents.
The gangsters oftenused corruption and racket to have illegal acivities.
Chicago was known as a haven for disobeying Prohibition. This city was controlled by the most famous gangsters including Al Capone.
During this period, newly hired prohibition agents were responsible for raiding speakeasies, finding stills and arrested gangsters but many of them were under-qualified and underpaid leading to a high rate...