Prohibition and the Influence on American Society

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Prohibition started with the ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919 and went into effect a year later. However, according to Richard Hamm, this negative outlook on alcohol was heavily influenced by the actions of reformers from years prior. Many religious and women’s rights organizations pushed the idea that alcohol led to abusive and destructive behavior. These groups had been, for a long time, trying to prevent alcoholism; eventually, this progressed to an attempt to end the consumption of alcohol entirely. Ramping up into prohibition, we were introduced to the Anti-Saloon League and the Prohibitionist Party, which is an organization that still exists to this day. They were groups that strongly advocated against the existence of alcohol, using religion and ethics to advertise and support their cause, according to the article Anti-Saloon League of America. Although some people believed in their cause, it was also forced into society by corrupting the politicians. They were pushing the government to pass the 18th amendment. Some were convinced that if alcohol was removed from society, then any crimes associated with alcohol or brought on by its effects would disappear.

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When the 18th amendment was finally passed, the law did not stop people from drinking, but changed the legality of how alcohol was consumed and transported, according to the article Prohibition and Crime. By banning the creation, transportation, and sale of alcohol, an alarming loophole was provided in the law. Although it was illegal to buy alcohol, it was not technically illegal to drink it. Only about ?…“ of alcohol consumers in the US population actually abstained from drinking after Prohibition came into effect, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Since there were no longer any legal ways to acquire alcohol, this encouraged organized crime to get illegally involved with the production and sale of alcohol to profit and help feed the huge demand. At first, the law did what it was intended to do as people were temporarily too scared to get involved. However, the effects quickly reversed and crime and death rates started to rise tremendously, as well as prison populations. Prohibition was very hard to enforce because so many people from different backgrounds disagreed with it. Many turned against the law and found illegal ways to acquire alcohol. It turned out to also be quite poor for the US economically, as many jobs were lost.

All Americans working in saloons, breweries, and distilleries were left with no work, hurting them and their families. Not only were Americans losing jobs, but the Federal Government lost about $11 billion dollars in tax revenue throughout the entirety of Prohibition, according to David Kyvig. Police spending was increasing exponentially, and the government was no longer receiving any profit from the copious amounts of alcohol circulating around the country. Homebrewing started to grow in popularity, and bootleggers would smuggle and sell alcohol to those requesting it. Crime leaders, most notably including Al Capone and Johnny Torrio, thrived during the Prohibition period, as alcohol provided a perfect industry for felonies. Prohibition was said to offer a graduate course for training in the crime industry, from the article Prohibition, a gangsters paradise. According to Hilary Parkinson, these mobsters involved with bootlegging would run underground establishments or provide them with their liquor. Illegal alcohol was transported through complex waterway systems and was able to avoid detection this way. The creation of speakeasies also occurred during this time, born from this new American lifestyle.

Speakeasies provided a refuge where people could come together to mingle and drink, bonding over their shared distaste for Prohibition. This communal scene turned out to be highly diverse. Women began to show up and drink socially as well, which used to be typically only a hobby for men. This community included people from all different backgrounds, including class and race, who found a common ground through speakeasies, since this ban on alcohol affected everyone. Speakeasies also led to the popularity of jazz music in America. According to Robert Cottrell, these speakeasies doubled as jazz clubs, giving a place for performers to showcase their talent. The underground scene allowed musicians to avoid discrimination for their race. Famous bands, led by musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, were regularly contracted. Conclusion As the decade went on, there was eventually no more support for prohibition, because of the negative effects it had caused.

The unsuccessful amendment had turned common citizens into criminals as they were persuaded into breaking the law, while drinking slowly become more socially acceptable. Also, the law enforcement had been split into two sides – the ones who followed the rules and found the regulations nearly impossible to implement, and the ones who had given into bribes offered by mobsters. While Franklin D. Roosevelt was president at the end of 1933, the 21st Amendment was passed repealing the 18th Amendment and allowed states to create specific laws deciding on the legality of alcohol use and sale. Most states allowed the handling of alcohol to become legal once again. Although prohibition did not end up working out for America’s government, causing more harm than good, it left lasting effects on our culture and society. These enduring results included influential jazz music, speakeasies and bars for socializing, and a new gangster culture.

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Prohibition and the Influence on American Society. (2019, Jul 24). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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