“Dry America”: The First Phase
* The initial impact of the prohibition was what was expected – a decline in drinking. The national consumption of alcohol declined 1 1/4th gallon per capita during the war years. (1921 – 1922). Although alcohol use rose again after the war, it never reached the height it had in the pre-war days. * Alcoholism as a medical problem severely dropped and many hospitals closed their alcoholism wings because of lack of patients. * However, like any law, people got around it by brewing their own liquor. In cities such as Boston and San Francisco the law was never truly enforced. Several states didn’t ratify the 18th amendment. * The upper classes expected the lower classes to obey the prohibition laws, but resisted any change to their own lives. This set up a market for illegal liquor, and enterprising individuals moved alcohol across borders. They were called “bootleggers” and brought shipments in from Canada or the Caribbean; and sold the liquor at “speakeasies”. * Prohibition does NOT lead the creation of organized crime, however, it raised the nation’s awareness of it. * The nation became aware of organized crime as a social problem because of mobsters like Alphonse “Al” Capone and Johnny Torrio in Chicago. Prohibition allowed individuals to tap into immense profits from the upper class of America, which also gave the mobsters – and eventually the Mafia – great power over the people because of their connections. * Capone in particular focused on gaining control of gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging in the Chicago area because it raised high profits. These highly publicized mobsters undermined the people’s faith in the positive effects of the prohibition.