At the beginning of the 1900’s, a movement to stop people from drinking alcohol known as the “temperance” started. This movement stemmed from a general belief that alcohol was a cause of families breaking up and social destruction. One could argue that this movement was the very beginning of prohibition.
World War I and rationing
Once World War I started, food rationing was essential so that the country could manage its resources. To manage and ration those supplies and resources, President Woodrow Wilson stopped the manufacturing of alcoholic drinks in the country.
Although it was not intended to, this decision helped the temperance movement in their cause. After World War I ended, a constitutional amendment that made alcohol illegal to buy and sell was issued in 1919. It was the 18th Amendment.
Despite the constitution and the law, people still wanted to drink alcohol. This opened the way for illegal smugglers to make and sneak alcoholic drinks into America’s bars. Alcohol smugglers were called bootleggers.
Bootleggers were often chased by the police and the federal authorities. They were so clever that they had their cars modified to run faster than the police’s cars. The bootleggers mostly sold homemade alcohol with brand names like “bathtub gin” and “moonshine.”
The speakeasies represented the very first type of organized crime to sell alcoholic drinks. They had members in multiple cities and mainly bought the alcohol they sold from the bootleggers. This group started growing and spreading all over America in the 1920’s.
As the organized crime gangs started to pick up on the huge profits of selling prohibited alcoholic beverages, it became a big part of their activities. These gangs were the reason behind the speakeasies spreading all over the states. The most famous gangster who made an enormous fortune from selling alcoholic beverages was Al Capone.
Although alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, whiskey, and other drinks nowadays are normal and most people do not think twice before ordering a drink with dinner at a restaurant, in the 1920’s, it was a crime that resulted in many violent actions and gangs’ monstrous crimes.
The end of the Prohibition
As the 1920’s came to an end, prohibition also ended. It became clear that drinking alcohol was a major part of so many people’s lives and there was no point in trying to prohibit it. The only thing that came from making alcoholic drinks illegal was the huge rise in the crime rates all over the United States. Typically, the prohibited alcohol damaged people’s lives as they had to drink cheaper kinds of alcohol which was more harmful to their health.
All of this resulted in more costs and money spent on both the police and the hospitals to fight crime and the bad effects of cheap alcoholic drinks. These costs were too much to handle especially with the beginning of the Great Depression in the early 1930’s. To solve both problems, the illegalization on alcohol was lifted through the 21st Amendment and high taxes were put on making and selling it. This created more job opportunities for people who were able to work legally in making and selling alcoholic beverages and ended the alcohol-related crimes almost immediately.