When Was Alcohol Prohibited in the United States?
In January 1919, a law was made in the United States forbidding the manufacture, sale or transport of alcohol anywhere in the country. That was the beginning of prohibition in America. It was an attempt to make the American people more moral and self-disciplined. Congregationalist and Presbyterian ministers had preached for some time about the evils of drink.
Many immigrants were coming to settle in America. Middle-class Protestants, descendants of early settlers, wanted these newcomers to adopt the same Puritan values as themselves. The law proved appallingly difficult to enforce, and encouraged acts of gangsterism—for instance, Al Capone’s massacre of his rivals on St. Valentine’s Day in Chicago in 1929.
Al Capone was a bootlegger, a man who profited from making and selling drink illegally. He made 60,000,000 dollars a year. On that St. Valentine’s Day—February 14—his gang killed seven members of a rival gang who were trying to make money doing the same thing.
By 1929 many people in America were sick of prohibition. The Democratic Party became known as the party which wanted to repeal the law. The economic depression of 1930-1933 was another reason for abolishing prohibition. Millions of men were out of work. It was thought that jobs could be created if the sale and manufacture of alcohol were allowed by law. So in February 1933 prohibition was repealed.
Although popular opinion believes that Prohibition failed, it succeeded in cutting overall alcohol consumption in half during the 1920s, and consumption remained below pre-Prohibition levels until the 1940s, suggesting that Prohibition did socialize a significant proportion of the population in temperate habits, at least temporarily. Some researchers contend that its political failure is attributable more to a changing historical context than to characteristics of the law itself.
Criticism remains that Prohibition led to unintended consequences such as the growth of urban crime organizations and a century of Prohibition-influenced legislation. As an experiment it lost supporters every year, and lost tax revenue that governments needed when the Great Depression began in 1929.