Volstead Act

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How important was the impact of the Volstead Act in influencing American society in the 1920s?

The ‘Roaring Twenties’ was the age of the New Woman, with political liberation to the right to vote, economic liberation to jobs and household appliances, and social liberation to fashion and new norms of behaviour symbolised by ’flappers’. The Volstead Act was introduced in 1919, which prohibited alcohol. Criminal gangs were already powerful but with the Prohibition they gained even more. Therefore the Volstead Act was the key factor in making organised crime organised.

The Volstead Act impacted American society in many ways. Prohibition caused the growth of crime, massacres and gang related violence and corruption. The Volstead Act was passed by Congress in 1919, which enabled the enforcement of Prohibition. It banned the manufacture, selling and transportation of alcohol. This ban was widely ignored throughout the 1920s, and drinking continued at a high level. Producing, importing and distributing alcohol was quickly taken over by private individuals and criminal gangs. Enforcement was almost impossible. There was massive corruption among public officials and the police. Coastguards were not paid generously, so were open to bribery and the sheer length of the US borders made stopping the importation and transportation of alcohol a pointless task (e.g. ‘Rum Row’). Treasury Agents were in charge of enforcements, yet there were only 3000 agents as it was thought the USA wanted Prohibition so would obey the law and Treasury Agents were too open to bribery from the billion dollar bootlegging industry - the Untouchables were the only enforcement not open to corruption.

The Volstead Act was a key factor in the growth of organised crime. Although there was already crime in the US, Prohibition created mass avoidance of a law by ordinary people who would not ordinarily break the law, and gave criminal gangs power and support. The production, distribution and...
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