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The Constitutional Legacy of Prohibition
Websites on Prohibition
"Not rum but righteousness"
Billy Sunday, the most famous preacher of the early 20th century, who emphasized a rugged, swaggering, masculine Christianity spoken in plain, slangy English. He combined the modern and the traditional in attacks on liquor, like this excerpt from one of Sunday’s sermons. Sunday denounced the government’s attempt to regulate and tax liquor as immoral. In his famously forceful and slangy style, he insisted that America needed God, not liquor.
The 18th Amendment
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors..." and was ratified by the states on January 16, 1919. The movement to prohibit alcohol began in the United States in the early nineteenth century. On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act, which provided for the enforcement of the 18th Amendment.
Common interpretation of the 21st Amendment
he Twenty-First Amendment (ratified in 1933) is the only one that repeals a previous amendment, namely, the Eighteenth Amendment (ratified in 1919), which prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” In addition, it is the only amendment which was ratified, not by the legislatures of the states, but by state ratifying conventions, as called for by the Amendment’s third section.
The Dry Years
This gallery contains images relating to Prohibition from the Collections of the Library of Congress.
Presidential Proclamation 2065-Prohibition is repealed
On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, as announced in this proclamation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment of January 16, 1919, ending the increasingly unpopular nationwide prohibition of alcohol.
Prohibition: Clash of the Cultures in 1920s America
This passage of national Prohibition precipitated a major cultural clash in the 1920s between those who favored Prohibition and those who wished to repeal it. Ironically, industrialization influenced both movements.
The Volstead Act
The passage of the Volstead Act put legal brewers out of business and opened the nation's door to unintended consequences: bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, rackets, gangsters, and organized crime. Read a copy of the actual Volstead Act here.
Letter identifying two establishments in New Jersey breaking the Prohibition Law
Image of a real Federal Prohibition Agent Badge
Interesting fact-Daisy D. Simpson was one of only 12 females in the whole of the United States hired as a Federal Prohibition Agent in 1922. She was one of the Treasury Department's most famous Prohibition officers and was known as the "Lady Hooch Hunter." She quickly attracted attention and press with her over-the-top busts of Volstead Act violators.
Al Capone's guilty verdict in his 1931 trial
Al Capone, an organized crime boss in Chicago and one of history's most infamous mobsters, was convicted by a jury on charges of tax evasion for failing to pay taxes on money earned through illegal operations. It's believed that Capone and men like him were able to accumulate up to $100 million each year due in part to the overwhelming business opportunity of illegal alcohol. Capone benefited immensely during the years of Prohibition.