Prohibition

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The popular name for the period in U.S. history from 1920 to 1933 when the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages?except for medicinal or religious purposes?were illegal.

From 1920 to 1933 the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors were illegal in the United States. The EIGHTEENTH AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution authorized Congress to prohibit alcoholic beverages, but the TWENTY-FIRST

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AMENDMENT repealed this prohibition. The era of Prohibition was marked by large-scale SMUGGLING and illegal sales of liquor, the growth of ORGANIZED CRIME, and increased restriction on personal freedom.

The prohibition movement began in the 1820s in the wake of a revival of Protestantism that viewed the consumption of alcohol as sinful and a destructive force in society. Maine passed the first state prohibition law in 1846, and other states followed in the years before the U.S. CIVIL WAR.

The PROHIBITION PARTY was founded in 1869, with a ban on the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor as its only campaign goal. This party, like most temperance groups, derived its support from rural and small-town voters associated with Protestant evangelical churches. The Prohibition Party reached it zenith in 1892 when its candidate for president polled 2.2 percent of the popular vote. The party soon went into decline, and though it still exists, it works mainly at the local level.

The impetus for the Eighteenth Amendment can be traced to the Anti-Saloon League, which was established in 1893. The league worked to enact state prohibition laws and had great success between 1906 and 1913. By the time national prohibition took effect in January 1920, thirty-three states (63 percent of the total population) had prohibited intoxicating liquors.

The league and other prohibition groups were opposed to the consumption of alcohol for a variety of reasons. Some associated alcohol with

Police seize bootleg liquor during a Prohibition era raid in Detroit, Michigan.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION

the rising number of ALIENS entering the country, many of whom were Roman Catholic. This anti-alien, anti-Catholic prejudice was coupled with a fear of increasingly larger urban areas by the rural-dominated prohibition supporters. Saloons and other public drinking establishments were also associated with prostitution and gambling. Finally, some employers endorsed prohibition as a means...

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