Prohibition Fast Facts
- So convinced were they that alcohol was the cause of virtually all crime that, on the eve of Prohibition (1920-1933), some towns actually sold their jails. i
- During Prohibition, temperance activists hired a scholar to rewrite the Bible by removing all references to alcohol beverage. ii
- The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) strongly supported Prohibition and its strict enforcement. iii
- Because the temperance movement taught that alcohol was a poison, supporters insisted that school books never mention the contradictory fact that alcohol was commonly prescribed by physicians for medicinal and health purposes. iv
- Prohibitionists often advocated strong measures against those who did not comply with Prohibition. One suggested that the government distribute poisoned alcohol beverages through bootleggers (sellers of illegal alcohol) and acknowledged that several hundred thousand Americans would die as a result, but thought the cost well worth the enforcement of Prohibition. Others suggested that those who drank should be:
- hung by the tongue beneath an airplane and flown over the country
- exiled to concentration camps in the Aleutian Islands
- excluded from any and all churches
- forbidden to marry
- placed in bottle-shaped cages in public squares
- forced to swallow two ounces of caster oil
- executed, as well as their progeny to the fourth generation. v
- A major prohibitionist group, the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) taught as "scientific fact" that the majority of beer drinkers die from dropsie (edema or swelling). vi
- Prohibition agents routinely broke the law themselves. They shot innocent people and regularly destroyed citizens' vehicles, homes, businesses, and other valuable property. They even illegally sank a large Canadian ship. vii
- "Bathtub gin" got its name from the fact that alcohol, glycerine and juniper juice was mixed in bottles or jugs too tall to be filled with water from a sink tap so they were commonly filled under a bathtub tap. viii
- The speakeasy got its name because one had to whisper a code word or name through a slot in a locked door to gain admittance. ix
- Prohibition led to widespread disrespect for law. New York City alone had about thirty thousand (yes, 30,000) speakeasies. And even public leaders flaunted their disregard for the law. They included the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who owned and operated an illegal still. x
- Some desperate and unfortunate people during Prohibition falsely believed that the undrinkable alcohol in antifreeze could be made safe and drinkable by filtering it through a loaf of bread. It couldn't and many were seriously injured or killed as a result. xi
- In Los Angeles, a jury that had heard a bootlegging case was itself put on trial after it drank the evidence. The jurors argued in their defense that they had simply been sampling the evidence to determine whether or not it contained alcohol, which they determined it did. However, because they consumed the evidence, the defendant charged with bootlegging had to be acquitted. xii
- When the ship, Washington, was launched, a bottle of water rather than Champagne, was ceremoniously broken across its bow. xiii
- Prohibition led to a boom in the cruise industry. By taking what were advertised as "cruises to nowhere," people could legally consume alcohol as soon as the ship entered international waters where they would typically cruise in circles. xiv
- National Prohibition not only failed to prevent the consumption of alcohol, but led to the extensive production of dangerous unregulated and untaxed alcohol, the development of organized crime, increased violence, and massive political corruption. xv
- The human body produces its own supply of alcohol naturally on a continuous basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Therefore, we always have alcohol in our bodies. xvi
- Prohibition clearly benefited some people. Notorious bootlegger Al Capone made $60,000,000...that's sixty million dollars...per year (untaxed!) while the average industrial worker earned less than $1,000 per year. xvii
- But not everyone benefited. By the time Prohibition was repealed, nearly 800 gangsters in the City of Chicago alone had been killed in bootleg-related shootings. And, of course, thousands of citizens were killed, blinded, or paralyzed as a result of drinking contaminated bootleg alcohol. xviii
- The "Father of Prohibition," Congressman Andrew J. Volstead, was defeated shortly after Prohibition was imposed. xix
- Repeal occurred at 4:31 p.m. on December 5, 1933, ending 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours and 32.5 minutes of Prohibition.
"What America needs now is a drink" declared President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the end of Prohibition. xx
- Although Prohibition was repealed 75 years ago, there are still hundreds of dry counties across the United States today. xxi
i Anti-Saloon League of America. Anti-Saloon League of America Yearbook. Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press, 1920, p. 8. Cited by Mulford, Harold A. Alcohol and Alcoholism in Iowa, 1965. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa, 1965, p. 9.
ii The American Mix, 2001, 1(1), 4.
iii Moore, L.J. Historical interpretation of the 1920's Klan: the traditional view and the popular revision. Journal of Social History, 1990, 24 (2), 341-358.
iv Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture, and Control Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995, Chapter Three.
v Sinclair, Andrew. Prohibition: The Era of Excess. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1962, p. 26; for other suggestions see Tietsort, Francis J. (Ed.) Temperance - or Prohibition? New York: New York American, 1929, ch. 8.
vi Kobler, John E. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1973, 143.
vii Jeffers, H. P. High Spirits. New York: Lyons & Burford, 1997, p. 20; "Demon Rum" PBS documentary, 1995.
viii Lender, Mark E. and Martin, James K. Drinking in America. New York: Free Press, 1982.
ix Erdoes, Richard. 1000 Remarkable Facts about Booze. New York: The Rutledge Press, 1981, p. 188.
x Jennings, Peter. World News Tonight. ABC-TV network, January, 29. 1999.
xi Erdoes, Richard. 1000 Remarkable Facts about Booze. New York: Routledge Press, 1981, p. 189.
xii The New York Times, January 7, 1928.
xiii Behr, E. Prohibition. New York: Arcade, 1996
xiv Cruising Through History. In Gordon, Lesley. Caribbean Cruises. London: Insight Guides, 2005, p. 33.
xv Engelmann, Larry. Intemperance: The Lost War Against Liquor. New York: Free Press, 1979; Asbury, Herbert. The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1950, ch. 9-14; Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1973, ch. 10-13; Sinclair, Andrew. Prohibition: The Era of Excess. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1962, ch. 9-15; Nelli, Hubert S. American Syndicate Crime: A Legacy of Prohibition. In: Kyvig, David E. (Ed.) Law, Alcohol, and Order: Perspectives on National Prohibition. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985; Grant, Marcus, and Ritson, Bruce. Alcohol: The Prevention Debate. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983, p. 21; Everest, Allan S. Rum Across the Border. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1978.
xvi Lindiger, W., Taucher, J., Jordan, A., and Vogel, W. Endogenous production of methanol after the consumption of fruit. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 1997, 21, 939-943; Phillips, M., Greenberg, J., and Martinez V., Ostrovsky, Y. M. Endogenous ethanol -- its metabolic, behavioral and biomedical significance. Alcohol, 1986, 3, 239-247.
xvii Schlaadt, R. G. Alcohol Use and Abuse. Guilford, CT: Dushkin, 1992, p.16; Fite, G. and Reese, J. Economic History of the United States. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1959, p. 579.
xviii Behr, E. Prohibition. New York: Arcade, 1996.
xix Andrew Volstead: The Father of Prohibition. www.lawyerzone.com; Kizilos, P. The man behind the act (Andrew J. Volstead). American History, 2001, 35(6), 50; Andrew Volstead. Spartacus Educational (Education n the Internet & Teaching History Online), www.sparticus.schoolnet.co.uk; James, C.L. Andrew J. Volstead: A Survey of Research. St. Paul, MN: C.L.James, 1978. Demko, P. Getting to the bottom of Minnesota’s liquor laws. City Pages, 2003, 21(1201), www.citypages.com, 12-10-03.
xx Burkhart, Jeff. Something to celebrate: Repeal of Prohibition. Marin Independent Journal, December 7, 2007.
xxi Dry Counties (http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/1140551076.html)