Prohibition in the Roaring Twenties

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Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties can be described as a period of American history during which people crossed the line, smashed tradition, and broke boundaries. A brand new culture was created during this period, with jazz, money, the flapper, gangster wars, loose morals, speakeasies, and last but not least, an abundance of liquor. The decade was also called the New Era, the New Freedom, the Jazz Age, the Golden Era, the Lawless Decade, or the Dry Decade. The last title was a joke- the twenties were far from dry. This is the reason why the 1920's were given names that described America's lax view of the 18th amendment and the Volstead Act. The laws were literally ignored for the 13 years that they were in effect. Prohibition was meant to cause a nationwide revolution in morality. In actuality, it did quite the opposite. Prohibition law itself had the greatest effect on the culture of the "roaring twenties," and the carefree lifestyle and feeling of rebellion and invincibility can both be connected to prohibition.

The change in American lifestyle began even before the prohibition law was passed. Several months prior to January 16, 1920 (when the 18th amendment and the Volstead Act were scheduled to go inot effect), there were warehouse robberies, stocking up of cellars with liquor, and burglaries of these cellars. Some called it the beginning of the age of hijacking. (Chidsey 73) However, the law affected neither alcohol consumption nor the brewing and distilling companies. At the close of the nineteenth century, the annual per capita consumption of distilled liquors in America was more than one gallon, of wine slightly less than half a gallon, and of malt liquors more than sixteen gallons. At the time of Prohibition there were 177, 790 saloons in the United States, 1217 legal breweries , 507 legal distilleries, and countless illegal ones. Together the brewers and distillers made up almost a billion- dollar industry- the fifth largest in the country. (Chidsey 58-59)

In the early 1900's when Prohibition was imminent, brewers supported the saloonkeepers as much as customers did. A beer company would finance a saloonkeeper if he agreed to only sell his sponsor's beer. Problems arose, however, when other saloons began to stay open on Sundays and after closing hours to make more money. If the first saloonkeeper wanted to stay open, he would be force to pay off the cops. If he didn't stay open late, he would go out of business. (Chidsey 59-60) During Prohibition, the same ideology applied to the speakeasies.

Generally, Americans had always been viewed as a law abiding people (Chidsey 79). This changed with the advent of Prohibition. Take for example Speakeasies. These illegal saloons were the cause of much crime, and a newfound immorality in people. As these speakeasies competed for business, they began to provide prostitutes and drugs. They served minors if the minors had money to spend, and there were gambling tables. This was new corrupt thinking in American society, and it contributed to the carefree behavior of the roaring twenties, as is explained later.

Bootleggers were also common during Prohibition. These criminals seemed like normal men, because they had the idea that lawbreaking, in this case, was okay to do. (Chidsey 80) The rest of the nation shortly adopted the same thinking. They found breaking the Prohibition law (and eventually, other laws) to be painless, comfortable, and exciting. People including women and teenagers, began visiting their homey neighborhood speakeasy regularly. The population of cities grew at 1.5% each year due to "country boys and girls leaving the farm for the excitement of Sodom." (Chidsey 63)

Women had been barred from drinking places before Prohibition, so they went without encouragement to the speakeasies. They were curious, and as eager to break the law and try out their new freedom as the men were. Prohibition helped the advancement of women's...
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