The American Prohibition of Alcohol in the 1920's
The prohibition of alcohol in the United States lasted from 1920 until 1932. The movement began in the late nineteenth century, and was fueled by the formation of the Anti-Saloon League in 1893 (Why Prohibition?). This league and other anti-alcohol organizations, began to succeed in establishing local prohibition laws. By the 1920's prohibition was a national effort.
The prohibition movement was aimed primarily at closing saloons. Saloons were the brewing companies place in retail business, selling alcohol by the glass. In the early twentieth century, there was one saloon for every one-hundred fifty or two-hundred Americans. This competitiveness forced saloon keepers to find other ways to make money. By the 1920's saloons had become houses of gambling and prostitution, not the innocent, friendly bar we associate the word with today (Why Prohibition?). The prohibition advocates found such establishments offensive, and sought to revoke their licenses.
The National Prohibition Act was added to the United States Constitution on January 16th, 1920 (The Eighteenth Amendment). The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the illegal manufacturing or selling of alcohol. There were only two ways to legally obtain alcohol under the prohibition laws. Religious groups were granted the right to obtain alcohol for sacramental purposes, and doctors were permitted to write prescriptions (Medicinal Alcohol).
People have believed in medicinal benefits of alcohol since ancient times, using it to cure snake bites and control disease. Even though the belief has begun to dwindle in the early twentieth century, alcohol was legally manufactured for medicinal purposes. This legal alcohol came in the form of distilled spirits; usually whiskey or brandy (Medicinal Alcohol).
The other way to get alcohol was in “speakeasies;” underground saloons. Oftentimes the bartenders at speakeasies would not actually mix drinks, but only supply glasses and ice. The only real skill involved with being a bartender was the ability to remain calm during police raids. Some considered the bartenders at speakeasies to be cheapening the profession (Cocktail). Still, many of...