Prohibition of the 1920's

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The 1920s was a time of major social change in the United States. The social changes during this period were reflected in the laws and regulations that were brought into play at this time. One of the most prominent examples of this was prohibition. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, also known as the Volsted Act, which got its name from its sponsor, Representative Andrew Volsted of Minnesota, was created to eliminate the use of alcohol in the United States. In doing this, the proponents of prohibition hoped to end the social problems associated with alcohol, such as domestic abuse. "It was an attempt to promote Protestant middle-class culture as a means of imposing order on a disorderly world"(Dumenil, 1995). However, this goal of keeping peace by not consuming alcohol, was not reached during the years of prohibition, or the years following it. Alcohol consumed by Americans did decline, but it was not totally eliminated as hoped, and some of the social problems seemed to be even greater than before prohibition was in effect. Therefore, prohibition was not successful in its original purpose. To better understand the reasons behind the failure of prohibition, one must have to look at the years before, during, and after prohibition. This will give a better understanding to the implementation of the 18th Amendment as well as show the trends of Americans' alcohol use and the effects of alcohol on American society. The early 1900s was a time of great prosperity in the United States. America was thriving economically, and big cities were booming.

However, some Americans thought that this was not a good thing because of the social problems that came with the urban culture. The "Dry's", as Prohibitionists were referred to, saw large cities as providing people with readily available alcohol. This in turn led to an increase in crime, poverty and immorality. During the period of 1911-1915 the average per-capita consumption of alcohol of each American was 2.56 gallons (Kyvig, 1979). The only solution that was proposed was a national prohibition of alcohol. The goal of this was to eliminate drinking in America, which would result in reducing all of the problems associated with it. "The Prohibitionists thought that the sale of liquor was a social crime, that the drinking of liquor was a racial crime, and that the results of liquor consumption were criminal actions"(Sinclair, 1962). By making alcohol illegal nationally, such as it would be with prohibition, the social problems of America would be fixed. On January 16, 1920, alcohol became illegal with the passing of the 18th Amendment. Under the Volsted Act, the importing, exporting, transporting, and manufacturing of all intoxicating substances was outlawed. The government defined intoxicating liquor as anything having an alcoholic content of more than .5%. However, this excluded alcohol used for religious or medical purposes. With the passing of this Amendment, the temperance movement in the United States had won a major victory. Supporters saw the implementation of prohibition as the key to freeing America from the fiery vices of alcohol. So began the prohibition era. At the onset of prohibition, alcohol use in the United States did decline. "It did cut alcohol consumption, perhaps by as much as thirty percent, and was more effective in the early years (1919-1922)" (Dumenil, 1995). However, this reduction in consumption was not permanent or even long lasting. "Seldom has a law been more flagrantly violated. Not only did Americans continue to manufacture, barter, and possess alcohol; they drank more of it" (Bowen, 1969). One of the reasons for this was that prohibition was so hard to enforce. This was partly due to the poor wording of the amendment. The 18th Amendment prohibited the sale, import, export, manufacture, and transport of alcohol, but it failed to specifically make purchasing alcohol or its use a crime. According to David E....
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