Essay on The Rise of Prohibition in America

Essay on The Rise of Prohibition in America

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“America had been awash in drink almost from the start – wading hip-deep in it, swimming in it, and at various times in its history nearly drowning in it.” 1 This quote proves to be correct, embodying American history beginning with the earliest American settlers to the present day. Keeping this fact in mind, how did the Temperance Movement gain enough strength to legally ban the manufacturing, selling, and transportation of alcohol in 1920? Through the determination and stamina of a multitude of factions throughout America from the early to mid 19th century, into the Progressive Era, federal legislation in the form of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America was passed. Beginning in the mid-1800s and coming to a climax in 1920, the issue of prohibition gained enough support to become a federal law due to the social and political climate throughout the nation during this period.
In 1630, renowned Puritan founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop arrived in Boston harbor on his ship the Arbella. This ship contained 10,000 gallons of wine and three times as much beer as water.2 This was completely normal for this time period and also correctly reflected the American society for the next several centuries. The popularity of liquor throughout the nation was one that could not be easily curbed. By the 1820s, liquor was easier to come by and more affordable than tea.3 As the popularity of liquor and the number of saloons grew, alcohol seemed to be a force that could not be reckoned with, but in 1826, the beginnings of an organized temperance effort in the U.S. became known. The American Temperance Society was founded, starting with church based groups and slowly spreading ...


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Lerner, Michael. Dry Manhattan :Prohibition in New York City . Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Lewis, Michael. "Access to Saloons, Wet Voter Turnout, and Statewide Prohibition Referenda, 1907-1919." Social Science History 32, no. 3 (2008): 373-404. (accessed October 13, 2014).

Okrent, Daniel . Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: Scribner, 2010.

Parsons, Elaine Frantz. "Temperance and Prohibition/Alcohol, Temperance, and Prohibition." Journal of American History 94, no. 3 (2007): 1046-1048. (accessed October 26, 2014).

Szymanski, Ann. Pathways to prohibition: radicals, moderates, and social movement outcomes. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003.

Webb, Holland . "Temperance Movements and Prohibition." International Social Science Review 74, no. 1/2 (1999): 61-70. (accessed October 26, 2014).

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