Alcohol in the Roarin' 20's

Alcohol in the Roarin' 20's

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During the 1830s, the average American, 15 years or older, consumed seven gallons of pure alcohol a year (PBS). Since women had very few legal rights, they heavily relied on their husbands to provide for the family; however, men were the predominant abusers of alcohol. This resulted in havoc in the household along with altercations in public. Chaotic society commenced The Temperance Movement. Public Broadcasting Channel wrote, “The country's first serious anti-alcohol movement grew out of a fervor for reform that swept the nation in the 1830s and 1840s,” (PBS). Protestant churches pushed for reform starting with moderation and eventually leading to local, state, and national governments prohibit alcohol outright. Beginning in the 1870s, the movement for temperance reemerged and began rapidly growing in America. Temperance was propelled forward by an emergent women’s movement centered on protection of the family, aided by the strong support of many Protestant churches (PBS).
Soon a number of states adopted state-wide prohibition, but it was World War I that made the passage to national prohibition possible. Strong anti-German prejudice, developed from the war, made the German brewers popular targets of hostility (PBS). In addition, the argument that production of alcohol beverages diverted grain needed for the war effort, the effective organization of prohibitionists along with the lack of organization by those who didn‘t support prohibition, the strong support of the Ku Klux Klan, political intimidation, and the effects of decades of temperance propaganda all made possible the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment establishing national prohibition. The first few years were successful as the alcohol consumption level decreased immensely. However, prohibition failed to stop the use of alcohol; and, in addition, led to the widespread production of dangerous, unregulated, and untaxed alcohol, the development of organized crime and increased violence, and massive political corruption (PBS). All these effects eventually led to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
Prohibition succeeded during the first few years, to a degree, due to decreases in alcohol consumption and crime rate. A graph constructed by Clark Warburton depicts per capita consumption of alcoholic beverages (gallons of pure alcohol) from 1910 to 1929. In 1919, eight-tenths of a gallon was consumed yearly by the average American (Warburton). After the 18th Amendment took effect in 1920, the level dropped to two-tenths of a gallon. This only lasted for the year bringing the consumption rate back up to eight-tenths of a gallon in 1921 (Warburton).

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Prohibition failed to halt society from intoxication when people found ways to circumvent the law. The public looked for new sources of distilled spirits, commencing war against the government. The Prohibition of Alcohol was a wrecking ball to society, creating more damage than progress.
Some view NP (National Prohibition) as a beneficial attribute to the United States’ evolution when considering the decrease in total expenditures and consumption. This is false due to the weight of beverages with less than five percent alcohol. Transporting large amounts of these drinks was difficult with the government strictly enforcing the newly administered laws. Society adapted and purchased distilled spirits since the alcohol is condensed and allows quicker intoxication. William Meredith illustrates the total expenditures on distilled spirits through a graph. Immediately following the enactment of prohibition, expenditures on spirits increased dramatically and decreased when it was repealed to its original level (Meredith). It is human nature to oppose those who control us. The 18th amendment restricted citizens from partaking alcoholic adventures.
An underground market opened up with organized crime running the show. Major cities provided stomping grounds for family-run mobs to infiltrate law enforcement. This later developed into major conflicts among mobs over territories and business. Federal efforts to enforce prohibition, including raids on speakeasies, were countered by well-organized bootlegging operations. In addition, some government officials succumbed to the mobs influence. An article from PBS states, “The sums of money being exchanged during the dry era proved a corrupting influence in both the federal Bureau of Prohibition and at the state and local level,” (Lerner).

Works Cited
Hall, Wayne. "What Are The Policy Lessons Of National Alcohol Prohibition In The United States, 1920–1933?." Addiction 105.7 (2010): 1164-1173. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
Lerner, Michael. "Unintended Consequences." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.
Meredith, William A. "Prohibition: The Great Experiment." Prohibition: The Great Experiment. N.p., 25 Apr. 1995. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.

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