The History Of Prohibition In The United States

1254 words - 6 pages

“At least 1,000,000 quarts of liquor is consumed each day in the United States”(Johnson). Setting the stage for the prohibition law took a lot of time and effort, but when it was finally put into place it wasn’t exactly effective. The ban of alcohol in the 1920’s, known as prohibition, lead to an up rise of criminal activity. This became a time of total lawlessness, with corrupt officers, bootleggers, and big time crime bosses such as Al Capone.
The American Temperance Society, founded in 1826, supported the growth of the prohibition (Johnson). Two groups formed through the temperance movement were the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WTCU) and the Anti-Saloon League of America (ASL). Women were very supportive of this movement because their husbands would waste their incomes on liquor and were more likely to abuse their family. One woman that took extreme action was a member of WTCU, Carrie Nation. She destroyed Kansas saloons with her hatchet, which gained her a lot of publicity for the temperance movement but also, eventually, got her arrested. The movement was also supported by those who saw the growth of cities as sinful because of the liquor and bars that come with them. Others saw that the making of liquor was a waste of grain that could be put to use feeding the soldiers. Many other reasons were looked at as bad results of alcohol, which just made the temperance movement grow in strength (King). By 1902 almost all states had temperance instruction laws for schools (Johnson).
16,000 agents were hired to enforce this new law: most of these officers were corrupt in one way or another (SV:SV) (King). As pointed out by Greg Johnson of the Philadelphia tribune, “Such an enormous traffic in liquor could not be carried on with out the knowledge, if not connivance of the officials entrusted with the enforcement of the law” (Johnson). Many officers were put on gangsters “pay role” to keep them quiet about their illegal business. Enforcement was strict in places that people favor the prohibition. For example, enforcement was more lenient in big cities due to the large population of gangster and other illegal activity. While in small towns, where people were strongly against drinking, the law was strictly enforced (Prohibition).
Aside from the many corrupt officers, there were still a few good cops, although not all people saw them that way. Isadore Einstein and Moe Smith, better known as Izzy and Moe, are two great examples. They made 4,392 arrests, with 90% of them leading to convictions. Before the arrest was made they needed to collect the evidence. “In his jacket each man had a small funnel with a rubber tube connecting to a hidden flask. Most of the drink went into the flask to be produced in court.” Because they did not exactly look like officers of the law, they weren’t cause for any alarm in speakeasies. Izzy and Moe gained a lot of publicity, mostly because they would invite news reporters on their raids. Other...

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