Updated: Aug 31
I first heard about the prohibition era in the US when I was researching for this piece - but apart from that, it's not really something we learn about at school in Europe. Yet, it had a huge socio-economic impact on vast parts of the US - and Savannah has dedicated a whole, amazing museum to the Prohibition era. I obviously had so see it!
Prohibition was a nationwide ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. In some states (such as Georgia) it started much earlier.
The prohibitionists were led by pietistic Protestants, who aimed to heal what they saw as an ill society beset by alcohol-related problems such as alcoholism, family violence, and saloon-based political corruption (Wikipedia).
The bill on prohibition divided America and as you can see, this article quotes Abraham Lincoln who defended his constitutional privilege to get drunk.
But, a ratification of the 18th amendment passed with a 68 percent supermajority in the House of Representatives and 76 percent support in the Senate and The Wartime Prohibition Act took effect June 30, 1919, with July 1, 1919 becoming known as the "Thirsty First" (wikipedia). However, the Country went dry one year later, on 17 January 1920.
17 January 1920: People queuing up for one last bottle
During Prohibition, people found ways of producing and purchasing alcohol anyway. This article explains the various loopholes.
Although alcohol was believed to have been the "root of all evil" by prohibitionists, by the end of the 1920's, it became clear that Prohibition was not the solution to moral and socio-economic problems in the US. The policy, in fact started causing crime, lowering local revenues, and imposing "rural" Protestant religious values on "urban" America (Wikipedia).
Prohibition ended with the ratification of the 21st Amendment which repealed the 18th Amendment on December 5, 1933, though prohibition continued in some states.
December 1933: Celebrating the right to drink again!
If you're ever in Savannah, Georgia, do pay the American Prohibition Museum a visit! And if you wish, you can have a cocktail at the 1920's themed Speakeasy - and say that Gus sent you!
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