photo credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Prohibition era was the period from 1920 to 1933 when the United States prohibited the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages. The alcohol industry was curtailed by a succession of state legislatures, and finally ended nationwide under the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified on January 16, 1919. Prohibition ended with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment on December 5, 1933. Led by Pietistic Protestants, prohibitionists first attempted to end the trade in alcoholic drinks during the 19th century. They aimed to heal what they saw as an ill society beset by alcohol-related problems such as alcoholism, family violence, and saloon-based political corruption. Many communities introduced alcohol bans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and enforcement of these new prohibition laws became a topic of debate. Prohibition supporters, called "drys", presented it as a battle for public morals and health. The movement was taken up by progressives in the Prohibition, Democratic and Republican parties, and gained a national grassroots base through the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. After 1900, it was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League. Opposition from the beer industry mobilized "wet" supporters from the wealthy Catholic and German Lutheran communities, but the influence of these groups receded from 1917 following the entry of the U.S. into the First World War against Germany. The Eighteenth Amendment passed in 1919 "with a 68 percent supermajority in the House of Representatives and 76 percent support in the Senate" and was ratified by 46 out of 48 states. Enabling legislation, known as the Volstead Act, set down the rules for enforcing the federal ban and defined the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited. Not all alcohol was banned; for example, religious use of wine was permitted. Private ownership and consumption of alcohol were not made illegal under federal law, but local laws were stricter in many areas, some states banning possession outright. By the late 1920s, a new opposition to Prohibition emerged nationwide. The opposition attacked the policy, claiming that it lowered local revenues and imposed "rural" Protestant religious values on "urban" America. Some criminal gangs gained control of the beer and liquor supply in some cities. The Twenty-first Amendment ended Prohibition, though it continued in some states. To date, this is the only time in American history in which a constitutional amendment was passed for the purpose of repealing another. Some research indicates that alcohol consumption declined substantially due to Prohibition, while other research indicates that Prohibition did not reduce alcohol consumption in the long term. Americans who wanted to continue drinking alcohol found loopholes in Prohibition laws or used illegal methods to obtain alcohol, resulting in the emergence of black markets and crime syndicates dedicated to distributing alcohol. By contrast, rates of liver cirrhosis, alcoholic psychosis, and infant mortality declined during Prohibition. Because of the lack of uniform national statistics gathered about crime prior to 1930, it is difficult to draw conclusions about Prohibition's impact on crime at the national level. Prohibition had a negative effect on the economy by eliminating jobs dedicated to the then-fifth largest industry in the United States. Support for Prohibition diminished steadily throughout its duration, including among former supporters of Prohibition, and lowered government tax revenues at a critical time before and during the Great Depression. Source: Wikipedia (en)

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