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No Liquor: Historical Photos Depicting The Prohibition Era In America From Beginning To Ending

The prohibition is a period in the United State’s history when the consumption and production of liquor were banned. Prohibition was ratified with the 18th Amendment in January 1920. However, the prohibition was difficult to impose, and results were not satisfying, so Congress proposed the 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th Amendment on December 5, 1933, which ended the prohibition.

The prohibition started as a religious movement, such as the abolitionist movement to end slavery, in the early decades of the 19th century. In 1838, Massachusetts passed a temperance law to impose a ban on the sale of spirits in less than 15-gallon quantities, though the ban was lifted two years later. However, it set the path for such legislation. The State of Maine passed the first prohibition law in 1846, followed by a stricter was in 1851. When the Civil War Broke out, several other states imposed similar laws.  After the civil war ended, the movement gained rapid support in the late 19th century from social reformers who saw alcohol consumption as a destructive force in families and marriages. Others associated alcohol with urban immigrant ghettos, a primary cause of crimes, and political corruption.

At the start of the 20th century, a new wave of attacks started on the sale of liquor led by the Anti-Saloon League (established in 1893). Some factory owners also supported the prohibition to increase the efficiency of their workers in an era of increased industrial production and extended working hours. When the United States entered into the First World War in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson imposed a temporary wartime prohibition to save grains for food production. Congress submitted the 18th Amendment which outlawed the production, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors began on 17 January 1920. The act defined ‘intoxicating liquor’ as anything that contained one half of one percent alcohol by volume, the medical or industrial use of the was exempted. Both the local and federal government tried to enforce prohibition across the country. The task was initially assigned to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and later transferred to the Prohibition Unit (federal Bureau of Prohibition). The bureau numbered around 3,000 agents and they can take help from local police. Several other steps were taken to prevent the smuggling from the Canadian and Mexican borders.

Despite very early signs of success, such as the number of deaths decreased due to Cirrhosis, the enforcement was very difficult. The illegal production and sale of liquor (bootlegging) started to meet the demands. Before the prohibition, been bars and saloons, served large quantities of. After the prohibition, there were illegal drinking dens known as “speakeasies” or “blind pigs” which by the end of the decade were numbered at an estimated 200,000. The era also encouraged the rise of criminal activity associated with bootlegging.  The most notorious example was the Chicago gangster Al Capone, who earned $60 million annually from bootleg operations and speakeasies. The price of bootleg liquor was doubled which only restricted the poor and some working-class people. Prohibition almost destroyed the brewing industry, causing a huge loss in jobs. It also resulted in a loss of $11bn in tax revenues, and cost $300m to enforce. An estimated 10,000 people died of alcohol poisoning during prohibition from bootleg whiskey, tainted gins and a federal government program that added poison to alcohol to frighten folks from imbibing (according to The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York).

When Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for president in 1932, he demanded to revoke the prohibition and easily won the victory over the incumbent President Herbert Hoover. Eventually, in February 1933, Congress passed the 21st Amendment which repealed the 18th Amendment. Though a few states continued to prohibit alcohol after Prohibition’s end, Mississippi was the last until 1966.

Have a look at these historical photos that perfectly depict the prohibition era.

#1 Mother Stewart Protesting against the liquor.The picture shows a group of women committing to rather extreme measures in support of the temperance movement.

Mother Stewart Protesting against the liquor.The picture shows a group of women committing to rather extreme measures in support of the temperance movement.

The temperance movement was an effort in the 1910's in the United States to reduce alcohol consumption. It actually led to Prohibition.This image is taken from book entitled "Memories of the Crusade: A Thrilling Account of the Great Uprising of the Women of Ohio in 1873, Against the Liquor Crime" The reason why the women are holding this sign for this picture is because they did not want a man that would drink because in most cases the women and children would be beaten, and the men would spend all of their money on the alcohol. This is a terrible issue of the time and it needed to be fixed, so women got together and protested and made sure that men knew their stance on the subject of alcohol.

#34 Prohibition-era prescription for whiskey

Prohibition-era prescription for whiskey

American doctors earned $40 million for whiskey prescriptions during the prohibition. Predictably, thousands of people across the country became very sick in no time. Some of them were actually ill, but most were feigning illness in order to get a prescription for booze. Alcohol was used for the treatment of various conditions and ailments, including tuberculosis, headaches, toothache, high blood pressure, or anemia. To buy spirits from the pharmacy, one had to pay $3 for each prescription, the equivalent of $40 today.

A limit was established on the number of prescriptions per head, so a single patient could only get one prescription per week, paying three dollars for a pint of whiskey, gin or brandy. It is estimated that doctors across the United States earned approximately $40 million during the 13 years of the prohibition period.

#58 A woman demonstrates the use of a Prohibition era book that conceals a liquor flask, 1927.

A woman demonstrates the use of a Prohibition era book that conceals a liquor flask, 1927.

While police had been rounding up the many gangs of male rum runners and bootleggers—the men who smuggled or transported illegal liquor across the border, or even just from one place to another—they had reason to believe that there was another, even more clandestine source of the illegal liquor transport in the country. And these bootleggers would be much harder to track down and much more complicated to search: women. They were wives, sisters and mothers, after all. And no one, quite literally, wanted to touch them.

#69 Speakeasie at the Hunt Club in the theatrical district.

Speakeasie at the Hunt Club in the theatrical district.

These speakeasies were bars that illegally sold booze to their customers behind locked doors. Some of these popular places were run by criminals, and even though the police would sometimes raid the bars and arrest both the owners and their customers, the speakeasies were so profitable they continued to flourish.

#78 The shoe of an alcohol smuggler who had been arrested at the Canadian border is strapped with wooden soles in the form of cattle hooves to camouflage their border crossing, circa 1924.

The shoe of an alcohol smuggler who had been arrested at the Canadian border is strapped with wooden soles in the form of cattle hooves to camouflage their border crossing, circa 1924.

Photo of George Cassiday in 1930. Cassiday managed his bootlegging activities out of the congressional Cannon House Office Building in Washington from 1920 until 1925 when he was first arrested. From 1925 to 1930, he operated out of the Russel Senate Office Building. After his second arrest on February 1930, Cassiday withdrew from bootlegging activities, and during the fall that same year, he went on to write the Washington Post articles. The shared information was sensational and pointed to the Congressional hypocrisy.

#86 Five members of the Alcohol Prohibition Research Committee depart on the bus Diogenes, named after the man who sought in vain for an honest man, in New York City.

Five members of the Alcohol Prohibition Research Committee depart on the bus Diogenes, named after the man who sought in vain for an honest man, in New York City.

The membership is seeking one drunk who has been reformed by the 18th amendment in their campaign against the liquor ban.From left are, Stephen Duggan Jr., assistant investigator; Russell Salmon, chief investigator; Ernest Boorland Jr., member of the executive committee; Robert Nicholson, assistant director; and Paul Morris, director.

Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.