Prohibition, A Complete Failure
Prohibition had become an issue long before its eventual induction as the 18th amendment in 1920. Organizations came about for the sole purpose of an alcohol free America. In 1833, an estimated one million Americans belonged to some type of temperance association (Behr 12). Many believed the absence of alcohol would help the poor as well as big business. Lower class people would put more money into savings accounts and productivity would increase among workers (Hanson 27). More importantly the “noble experiment”—was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, and improve the health and hygiene in America” (Thorton 1).
Although gangsters of the 1920’s were notorious for their violent turf wars,“the fundamental problem with prohibition was that an increasing percentage of American citizens refused to uphold the law” (Hanson 40). Not only did crime increase, ironically, prohibition turned ordinary citizens into lawbreakers.
“In San Francisco, a jury trying a prohibition case was found drinking up the liquor that had been used in court as evidence” (Edey 154). In Texas, shortly after the start of prohibition,” a still turning out 130 gallons of whiskey a day was found operating on the farm of Senator Morris Shepard, author of the 18th Amendment”(Edey 154).
“Americans bought machines for distilling liquor, called stills, at the hardware store.” (Hanson 28). Even if they did not know how to use them they easily get the
information from the public library (Hanson28). Everything you could imagine was put into use to make liquor, even bathtubs (Hanson 28). “In fact, bathtub gin became a common term to describe during the decade” (Hanson28).
“Doctors and druggists were legally allowed to dispense alcohol as medicine” (Hanson 34). “An average of 10 million prescriptions were issued each year during the thirteen years prohibition was in effect” (Hanson 34).
In summary, ordinary citizens were consuming alcohol, an illegal act. They were making alcoholic beverages. They were getting doctors to prescribe alcohol for them under questionable circumstances making the medical profession their accomplice.
Somebody had to satisfy the need for alcohol to an eager nation. This is where the rise in organized crime came in. “For the first time the United States experienced a massive increase in crime as business” (Hanson 35). The lucrative market and promise of profits “resulted in the development of professional gangs of criminals. Racketeers and gangsters competed for business, spawning a wave of violence across the nation” (Hanson 35). No place was more evident of this than Chicago.
“ The evil genius of all gangsterdom was Al Capone, first haled to Chicago at 23 by Johnny Torrio, who was at the time boss of the Windy City’s underworld” (Edey 175). By the time Capone took control in 1925 he controlled all the speakeasies in Chicago, which were estimated to be at...