Prohibition was not necessarily a “failure,” as many have written since that time, if failure is measured solely in terms of the drinking population.  Contrary to popular belief, Prohibition was not a period of drunken abandonment for most Americans, and in fact, alcohol consumption dropped to about half its previous level. Many people stopped drinking, some because they wanted to obey the law and some because they did not want to be poisoned by illegal alcohol (a valid fear at the time)  such as “bathtub gin”  or moonshine.  Many of those who continued to drink drank illegally imported Canadian whiskey.  On the other hand,  Prohibition could be regarded as a “failure” because many people did continue to drink, and illegal elements (such as organized crime)  became involved in alcohol smuggling and developed criminal organizations that exist to this day. For these reasons, Prohibition deserves its own section.

Prohibition was hard-fought, both by the “drys” and the “wets.” After years of pushing for a ban on alcohol,  the drys finally won with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment.  Prohibition officially began on January 16,  1920 and lasted until its repeal on December 5, 1933, nearly 13 years later, with the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment.

According to authors Lender and Martin, “In 1916, after a tremendous push from all dry organizations, the general elections sent so many league [AntiSaloon League] endorsed candidates to the House and Senate that action on a prohibitory amendment to the Constitution was virtually assured.”

Alcohol had been previously banned temporarily in 1917 with the entry of the United States into World War I, in part to deal with grain shortages and also in part to ensure sober soldiers. However, despite the pre-Prohibition ban, millions of people had continued to drink anyway.

It should also be noted that during Prohibition, physicians were allowed to write prescriptions for alcohol and many did. According to some sources, before Prohibition ended,  doctors were writing 10 million prescriptions (for medicinal purposes) a year.

World War I was another factor in the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment,  and its advocates actively equated support for “wets” as anti patriotic. Many brewers in the United States had German names, and this fact was noted disparagingly by dry leaders.

Prior to the repeal of Prohibition,  many politicians bemoaned the loss of tax revenue from all the alcohol consumed during Prohibition. Because the Great Depression continued to affect the United States severely in 1933,  advocates of repeal discussed not only the increased revenues that legalization of alcohol would provide, but also jobs that would be created at a time when unemployment was at a shocking 25 percent of all Americans. In addition (and very ironically), because Prohibition banned the sale of alcohol, many people had begun drinking at home. Whereas in the pre-Prohibition years, heavy drinking was primarily limited to men (or at least,  that is what temperance supporters believed), now both men and women began drinking. Some experts say it was the invention of the cocktail, or the mixed drink, that enticed women into drinking.  The cocktail was largely created to disguise the bad taste of illegal alcohol, but it made drinking seem glamorous and fun.  The general appeal of the cocktail has persisted to the present day,  although the formulations and the type of alcohol used varies.

Page 1 of 31 2 3 Next »

Provided by ArmMed Media