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History of the Alcohol Prohibition

The history of the alcohol prohibition is an interesting one. It seems that there have been people and governments that wanted to stop people from drinking for centuries now. Yet there is a period of time that most Americans think of when they hear the words. They think of the roaring1920's, flapper girls, and secret drinking clubs.

What Was the Alcohol Prohibition?

The history of the alcohol prohibition was a period of time when the politicians in the national government got together and talked about the problem of drinking. An amendment to the constitution was passed, making it illegal for anyone in the United States to drink any alcohol.

There were laws enacted and agencies created to make sure that alcohol was not made, sold or consumed for as long as the amendment was in place. Drinking was never actually halted by these means.

Events Leading Up to the Prohibition

  • In early America, colonists drank about 7 gallons of pure alcohol to make up for the scarcity of water and the expense of other beverages.
  • Soon, alcohol was taxed and limited by law.
  • In the mid-1800's several states passed alcohol prohibition laws, but none of these prohibitions lasted.
  • The Anti-Saloon League, established in 1893, began to grow and call for national temperance.
  • Business owners such as Henry Ford began to support the League.

Prohibition did not happen overnight. Everyone had been thinking about whether people should be allowed to consume alcohol. The idea of temperance gained more support over time.

When powerful people began to have an influence on the history of the alcohol prohibition, it was almost inevitable that it would be discussed at the top governmental levels.

Ratification of the Amendment

Wayne Wheeler, then leader of the Anti-Saloon League, wrote the National Prohibition Act of 1919. Congress began debating the issue on May 27 of that year, and reached a conclusion on October 10. The result was an overwhelming approval of prohibition as the 18th Amendment of the Constitution. Woodrow Wilson put his presidential veto in place, but the Congress overrode it quickly.

Effects of Prohibition

  • Producing, transporting and selling liquor illegally began
  • The government lost tax revenues it would have received from alcohol
  • Alcohol consumption declined overall, but those who did drink consumed enough to damage their health and become alcoholics at an alarming rate
  • Toxic homemade booze led to illness and death for thousands of people during the history of the alcohol prohibition
  • Crime increased

Prohibition had many supporters when it was passed, but its real effects were not exactly all for the best. It is possible that fewer people might have been drinking. However, the government was losing money and the people who were drinking were destroying their health.

Repeal of the Amendment

By the end of the 1920's people were beginning to become unhappy about the prohibition situation. When the depression hit, people wanted the government to step in and do more for them.

They did not understand why the government was allowing the illegal booze makers, sellers and transporters to get all the profits from the liquor industry. They wanted the government to get the taxes. In 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified to close the history of the alcohol prohibition.

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