Prohibition in the 1920s

Kylar Osborne and Zach Freeman

After the ratification of the 18th Amendment and the start of prohibition, gangs and bootleggers took advantage of the illegality of alcohol to conduct shady operations up until the point of FDR's election and the ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933.

Ratification of the 18th Amendment

The ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution–which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors–ushered in a period in American history known as Prohibition. The 18th Amendment was accompanied by the Volstead Act which defined intoxicating beverages as anything with more than 0.5 percent alcohol. This meant even beer, wine, whiskey and gin were barred from being legally sold.

Gangs, Gangsters, and Scarface

Organized crime filled the hole left by the end of the nation's legal brewing industry. Homicides increased in many cities, partly as a result of gang wars, but also because of drunkenness. Criminal groups could organize around the steady source of income provided by laws against victimless crimes such as consuming alcohol or drugs, gambling and prostitution.

Election of Franklin D. Roosevelt

By the time of the Great Depression in 1932, creating jobs and revenue by legalizing the liquor industry had an undeniable appeal. Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for president that year on a platform calling for Prohibition’s appeal, and easily won victory over the previous President Herbert Hoover. FDR’s victory meant the end for Prohibition, and in February 1933 Congress adopted a resolution proposing a 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th. The amendment was submitted to the states, and in December 1933 Utah provided the 36th and final necessary vote for ratification. Though a few states continued to prohibit alcohol after Prohibition’s end, all had abandoned the ban by 1966.

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