Prohibition In America

Prohibition in America. Hard as it may be to believe there was a time when the consumption of alcohol was illegal in the United States - find out all about it.

Hard though it may be to believe, there was a time when the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages was a crime in the United States. Yet, at one minute past midnight on January 16th, 1920 the prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcohol became law, sanctioned under the Volstead Act, which was ratified in January of 1919. The law carried with it some heavy penalties. Fines of up to $1,000 were imposed on those caught defying the Volstead Act. Those who were unable to pay their fines faced a six month jail term.

The Anti Saloon League of America was instrumental in the passage of the law to outlaw alcohol. Convinced that ridding the country of the "˜demon drink' was the only way to preserve Christianity, they were delighted with the new law. Many others, however, were less than pleased. There were, in fact, many attempts to defy it. In Texas, a still was found on the property of Senator Morris Sheppard, who had been instrumental in the drafting of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which had brought about Prohibition. Foreseeing future corruption in the law enforcement agencies as a result of the Volstead Act, future New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia commented that, "it would take a police force of 250,000 to enforce the Prohibition Act and another 200,000 to police the police."

True to La Guardia's prediction, Prohibition spawned organized crime, bootlegging and corruption among the police on an unprecedented scale. It is fair to say that the Volstead Act indirectly gave rise to the American Mafia, along with it's most famous figure, Al Capone. Capone, along with many others, including Kennedy family head Joe, made huge amounts of money running bootlegging operations from Canada all the way to Florida. Capone found a rival in the form of former attorney George Remus. Remus was a successful lawyer when Prohibition came into effect. He soon noticed that his criminal clients were making more money than he was from their bootlegging activities. Convinced that he could outdo them in the illegal alcohol business he became intimately aware of the Volstead Act. He soon found a loophole wherein he could buy distilleries and pharmacies in order to sell alcohol to himself under Government license for medicinal use. The liquor would disappear on the way to market. He moved to Cincinnati and bought up 9 whiskey distilleries. Remus bribed many officials in order to keep his operation going, including a half million dollar gift to the U.S. Attorney General.

Speakeasies soon flourished across the country. These were underground saloons. By 1925 there were more than 100,000 speakeasies in New York alone. The job of the Prohibition Enforcement agency was a hopeless one. It was also demoralising. The 3,000 jobs of the Prohibition Agency were held by 10,000 different men over a six year period. Still, throughout the Prohibition years millions of gallons of alcohol were confiscated. By the late twenties Prohibition was becoming a very unpopular reality. Democratic Party Presidential candidate Al Smith campaigned against it in 1928. Although he lost the election, Smith did manage to weld together a groundswell of discontent against Prohibitionism. Four years later, the Democrats again used Prohibition as an issue and this time their candidate, Franklin Roosevelt was swept into the White House. In February of 1933 Congress passed the 21st amendment which repealed prohibition. On December 5th of that year the 21st Amendment was ratified. America was no longer dry!

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