• Prohibition refers to the period between 1920 and 1933 when the sale, manufacture, and transport of alcohol was illegal throughout the United States.
  • The ban on alcohol stemmed from a nationwide constitutional amendment termed as the 18th Amendment, ratified on January 16, 1919.
  • It was imposed with the intention of reducing crime, corruption and social problems associated with alcohol.
  • The Volstead Act, passed by Congress on October 28, 1919, provided for the federal enforcement of Prohibition.

Reasons for Prohibition

  • The Temperance Movement, launched by different religious and social groups, was a driving force behind the introduction of Prohibition, intended to curb moral decay and family disintegration associated with excessive drinking.
  • During World War I, anti-German prejudice also played a part, as Germans operated most of the breweries in the U.S.
  • The movement won the support of many women’s groups, who associated alcohol with domestic violence and marital instability.

Consequences of Prohibition

  • Prohibition led to the rise of illegal bars and clubs, known as ‘speakeasies’, where alcoholic drinks were served.
  • The ban created a lucrative black market for alcohol, facilitating the rise of organised crime syndicates, the most famous being Chicago’s mob boss Al Capone.
  • Legal sectors from the economy, such as breweries and bars, collapsed and the government lost tax revenue.

End of Prohibition

  • Prohibition was largely deemed a failure for not achieving its goals and for the consequential rise in crime.
  • The 21st Amendment, ratified on December 5, 1933, ended Prohibition, making it the only constitutional amendment repealing another.
  • Post-Prohibition, the alcohol industry was heavily regulated, and illegal sources of alcohol went into decline.