2 October 2011
The 19th century was a period of growth both for alcoholic beverages and the temperance movement. Washingtonian societies - made up of men who had taken a pledge to forgo all alcoholic beverage - sprang up across the country. Women were often excluded from these groups and so formed their own. The women's crusade of 1873 was essentially a general strike by women who brought business to a halt. Their protest spread to 911 communities in 37 territories. However no laws had been changed and within a few years, saloons were back in business. In 1879, Frances E. Willard became the head of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which she would lead for 19 years.It became a huge social welfare organization with 45 departments dealing with many issues other than temperance. Carrie Nation and her home defenders army started closing saloons in Kansas but it too failed to change laws. By the turn of the 20th century, there were some 300,000 saloons in America. Saloons were not only social centers but places where you could look for jobs or learn to speak English. The Anti-Saloon league was the most successful pressure group in America and the most effective in making alcohol a wedge issue. The brewers fought back but the temperance movement continued to grow, leading to the passing of the 19th Amendment.
3 October 2011
With the passing of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, the federal government now passes legislation to enforce it. Known as the Volstead Act, the legislation forbids not only hard liquor but also beer and light wine which many legislators assumed would be exempted. Penalties as well were far harsher than many had expected. The ban on alcoholic beverages could not be complete as alcohol was required by many industrial processes. There were also exemptions for religious observances and for medicinal purposes. In fact, from the day the ban went into into effect,entrepreneurs found ways, some legal, most not - to get around the law. Some States had no legislation to implement the new amendment to the constitution and for the most part, the Federal government was left on its own to enforce it. Rum running. became big business with schooners plying their trade on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the U.S. By the mid-1920s many people had come to the conclusion that prohibition was a mistake. Those who drank were drinking more and with no way for government to regulate the illegal industry, they were also drinking bad liquor. Criminal gangs sprang up across the country but Chicago became synonymous with vice and booze.
4 October 2011
By the mid-1920s, a great many people had become convinced that prohibition was a serious mistake. Alfred E. Smith
, the Governor of New York, was unsuccessful in getting the Democratic nomination for President in 1924 but succeeded in 1928. Smith was adamant that as President, he would repeal the 18th Amendment. He was not successful in seeking the Presidency though the fact that he was a Roman Catholic likely had more to do with his defeat. While alcohol consumption continued to rise, nothing demonstrated the failure of prohibition as did the rise of organized crime and the man who became the poster boy for crime and bootlegging, Al Capone
. Soon, Pauline Sabin
organized a national movement to restore the legal sale of alcoholic beverages. By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt
was elected in 1932, beer was being sold and in less than a year, the 19th Amendment was repealed.
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