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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