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Prohibition was a period in which the sale, manufacture, or transport of alcoholic beverages became illegal. It started January 16, 1919 and continued to December 5, 193. Although it was formed to stop drinking completely, it did not even come close. It created a large number of bootleggers who were able to supply the public with illegal alcohol. Many of these bootleggers became very rich and influential through selling alcohol and using other methods. They started the practices of organized crime that are still used today. Thus, Prohibition led to the rapid growth of organized crime.
The introduction of prohibition in 1919 created numerous opinions and issues in American society. Prohibition has been a long-standing issue in America, with groups promoting it since the late eighteenth century. The movement grew tremendously during the nineteenth century. When the United States entered World War 1 in 1914, there was a shortage of grain due to the long demands to feed the soldiers. Since grain is one of the major components in alcohol, the temperance movement now had the war to fuel their fight. Thus, the war played a large part in the introduction of Prohibition. During the net five years many states enacted their own prohibition laws, and finally, on December 16,1919, Amendment 18 went into effect. It states that, “…the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors…. For beverage purpose is hereby prohibited.”(Constitution)
The public reaction to the introduction of Prohibition was largely mixed. The temperance organizations were rejoiced. Over a century of work had finally paid off for them. The rest of the country, however, was less than pleased. Many saw it as a violation of their freedom, and others wanted to keep drinking. It did no take a long time before people began to protest.
The public demand for alcohol led to a soaring business for bootleggers. When prohibition began, people immediately wanted a way to drink. Therefore, the profitable bootlegging business was born. Before Prohibition gangs existed, but had little influence. Now, they had gained tremendous power almost overnight. Bootlegging was easy; some gangs even paid hundreds of poor immigrants to maintain stills in their apartments. Common citizens, once law abiding, now became criminals by making their own alcohol. However, this forced risks for those who made their own. The less fortunate Americans consumed homemade alcoholic beverages that were sometimes made with wood alcohol. In return, many died due to alcohol poisoning.
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Prohibition Introduction Of Prohibition Temperance Movement Rapid Growth Alcoholic Beverages Other Methods Organized Crime Eighteenth Century Manufacture
There was very little enforcement to the law, since the government employed few prohibition agents; most of them could be bribed by the bootlegger. The speakeasies, which got their name because a password had to be spoken through the door to get in, popped up all over the country. Even with prohibition in effect, the demand for alcohol never gave it a chance to work.
Al Capone used prohibition to build a crime empire in the United States history. He started as a member of John Torrio’s gang in Chicago. Torrio was a gangster and bootlegger, and after he was shot in 1922 Capone became the leader of his gang. He expanded the business, and by 1930 he controlled speakeasies, bookie joints, gambling houses, brothel, horse and racetracks, nightclubs, distilleries and breweries. By bribing police and prohibition agents, he was able to get away with almost anything he did. The American public began to hate him for being able to get away with the law, and the government hated him for repeatedly breaking their laws and embarrassing them. Capone was evicted for tax evasion and was sentenced for ten years. He was soon diagnosed with syphilis and spent the rest of his time in the hospital. Later on he died in his Florida estate on January 25, 1947.
Prohibition led to organized crime, as we know it today. Men like Al Capone got their start during Prohibition and were able to develop a system whose methods led into the Mafia and other ways of modern day crime. Prohibition turned the small gangs that existed in the early twentieth century into the powerful Mafia that still exists today.
Alcohol Consumption During Prohibition
Jeffrey A. Miron, Jeffrey Zwiebel
NBER Working Paper No. 3675 (Also Reprint No. r1563)
Issued in April 1991
We estimate the consumption of alcohol during Prohibition using mortality, mental health and crime statistics. We find that alcohol consumption fell sharply at the beginning of Prohibition, to approximately 30 percent of its pre-Prohibition level. During the next several years, however, alcohol consumption increased sharply, to about 60-70 percent of its pre-prohibition level. The level of consumption was virtually the same immediately after Prohibition as during the latter part of Prohibition, although consumption increased to approximately its pre-Prohibition level during the subsequent decade.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w3675
Published: The American Economic Review, Vol. 81, No. 2, pp. 242-247, (May 1991). citation courtesy of