Prohibition was the act of making the distribution, consumption, and manufacturing of alcohol illegal.
It was made illegal by the 18th amendment to the constiution in 1919
The Roots of Prohibition
The prohibition movement stemmed out from the progressive movement, which happened at the beginning of the 20th century.
The progressive movement was fueled mainly by the middle class, and included both economic and social reforms, such as anti-saloon campaigns.
Prohibition Roots (cont’d)
Started in 1883, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement spear-headed the movement and was responsible for creating much anti-alcohol propaganda geared toward women.
Why support prohibition?
Many women supported prohibition they associated it with wife beating and child abuse. While many industrialists supported prohibition because they thought it helped industry.
Minister preaching about prohibition
Carrie Nation was a Kansas extremist in support of prohibition.
Resorting to vandalism as her main fight against alcohol, she would often go into bars with a hatchet and destroy almost everything.
Views of Prohibition by different groups
Different regions and different groups of the US had varying views of the new amendment.
In the South and West, prohibition was popularly supported. Southern whites were more than happy to keep alcohol from blacks, so they keep “in their place.” Prohibition motives in the West suggested an attack on saloons which was associated with crime, prostitution, and corruption.
Views of Prohibition by Different Groups (cont’d.)
In the Eastern cities however, prohibition was greatly criticized. Many old-world immigrants and factory workers were especially accustomed to the drink.
Also, returning Soldiers were not too fond of the amendment, since it had been passed while they were over seas.
Founded in 1869, it was a thriving third-party in a few elections.
It still exists today, though it has drastically declined since 1933.
Its big success came when the 18th amendment was ratified, making intoxicating liquor illegal.
Prohibition for the Wealthy
Many business leaders thought that the factory workers would be more productive if they could not have any alcohol.
Henry Ford once said, “The country couldn’t run without Prohibition. That is the industrial fact.”
John D. Rockefeller donated over $350,00 to the anti-saloon league.
A speakeasy was an underground place to buy alcohol during prohibition years. They became very popular, and there were quite a few during the Prohibition era.
To get into a speakeasy, one had to know the password, or else access was denied.
Speakeasies close to home...
The term “speakeasy” originated in Pittsburgh when an owner of a Saloon in Mckeesport, Kate Hester, kept her customers in her saloon and told them to “Speak easy boys, speak easy.” It soon spread from Pittsburgh and became a national term.
Interesting Facts of Speakeasies
For every legitimate saloon that closed down about six underground speakeasies sprang up.
By the mid-1920’s there were an estimated 100,000 speakeasies in New York City alone.
Culture of the Speakeasies
Speakeasies influenced culture such as the flapper and the jazz age.
Dancing and jazz became very popular in the speakeasy setting. The “flapper” became an image associated with the speakeasy environment.
Since brewers were now closed down, many made their own alcohol.
Moonshine was popular, and still is, in the Appalachian Mountain Area. Bathtub gin also became very popular, named because glycerine and juniper juices were made in jugs that were too tall for sinks and had to be filled with bathtub water.
How did the speakeasies get alcohol?
Many of these illegal bars got alcohol from bootlegging. They did not have the means to make their own alcohol, so men would “run” it from some other place. In New York City and the Northeast a majority of the liquor was from Canada.
These runners were often gangsters.
Bootlegging became associated with organized crime, such as Al Capone in Chicago and Legs Diamond in New York City.
It also erupted in violence amongst the rivaling gangs.
This was one of the factors that led to the eventual repeal of the 18th amendment.
Born on January 17, 1899 and grew up in Brooklyn amongst two small gangs.
He quit school at the age of fourteen and eventually became a member of the famous Five Points Gang.
Al Capone (cont’d.)
His job as a five points member was a bartender/bouncer at the gang’s Harvard Inn.
This was where he earned his scars where that would later make him “Scarface”
He met his wife Mary “Mae” Coughlin at a dance and they soon had a son, Albert “Sonny” Francis Capone.
Al Capone (cont’d.)
Capone moved to Chicago in 1919 and went to work for John Torrio, helping him run his bootlegging business.
By 1922 he became Torrio’s partner helping him run his saloons, gambling houses and brothels.
When Torrio was shot, Capone inherited all of his businesses and was more successful than Torrio was.
Capone was said to have made an estimated $60,000 a year, which today inflates roughly to $6 million a year.
However, the mayor of Chicago eventually felt the need to run Capone out of town, and Capone had no where to go.
He ended up hiding in Florida for a few years.
His most notorious killing was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, where four of his men ending up slaughtering seven mobsters from a rival gang.
Though he murdered dozens of people, he ended up going to prison for failure to pay taxes.
Capone in the Slammer.
Capone was originally sent to a federal prison in Atlanta. However, when he started making deals with some of the officers, he was relocated to Alcatraz.
While at Alcatraz he started showing symptoms of syphilitic dementia, and was hospitalized for the rest of his life.
Al “Scarface” Capone was not the only gangster who became very successful off of bootlegging, but he was the definitely the poster child for speakeasies during the 1920’s.
Some other famous gangsters included: “Lucky” Luciano , “Bugs” Moran, and “Dutch” Schultz.
The End Of Prohibition
By the time the Great Depression was in full swing, many officials had decided it was time to put an end to this “noble experiment”
In 1933, after FDR was elected, he put an end to the 18th amendment, stating that, “America needs a drink.”
Why did prohibition fail?
Prohibition failed because it was not a majority movement. Many people, especially in the Northeastern Cities did not support prohibition
There was not enough enforcement, and most police officers were not in favor of prohibition.