Prohibition Paper

Melissa Schroeder

Professor French

Prohibition Paper


The Rise of Prohibition:

            The 18th amendment to the United States prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” (The Charters of Freedom) for thirteen years. Some of the temperance movements that led up to the amendment were the Washingtonian Movement, the Women’s Crusade, and the Anti-Saloon League and how they lead to the 18th amendment being passed and what occurred before it was repealed.

The “nation’s first large-scale expression of antialcohol sentiment” (Okrent 9) formed as the Washingtonian Movement in 1840 as the result of six frequent drinkers who pledged to total abstinence. These six only asked of others to sign a similar pledge (9). This methodology led to the Washingtonian evangelists who lured hundreds of men out of their drunkenness (10). By the later 1840s—Prohibition, “the legislated imposition of teetotalism on the unwilling” (Okrent 11) had become a rallying cry. It was among the many Americans who turned towards Prohibition, came Neal Dow who convinced Maine’s legislature to carry out America’s “first statewide prohibitory law” (Okrent 11) in 1851.This would lead to similar laws in other states such as Oregon, Michigan, and Nebraska Territory (Behr 30). The Temperance movement that had spread in the earlier part of the19th century subsided after the 1850s (Pegram 43).

By the 1870’s a new temperance movement called the Women’s Crusade (Behr 36). These started with Elizabeth Thompson, who after listening to Dr. Lewis and meeting with other women, marched on Hillsboro’s well known liquor store: Dr. William Smith’s Drug Store (36). After picketing and praying. The owner William Smith agreed to stop selling liquor and to dump his “liquor reserves” (Behr 36). Days later, Elizabeth Thompson’s next target was a saloon, which was had more fervent praying but was also successful (36; 37). Other attempts were launched in the Midwest and as far west as California (by other groups) (37). However, the movement lost energy and “breweries and saloons reopened” (Behr 38.)

In the late 1890’s the Anti-Saloon of America was founded, establishing the modern outlook of “traditional middle-class moral concern in America “(Pegram 107). They centered their intentions to “root out the institutional structure that supported the culture of drinking” (Pegram 107).  The organization grew out of Ohio to become a major temperance powerhouse (112). The league centered on building durable state organizations by raising the public’s mind and making certain of state and local laws to dispel saloons (117-118). Eventually, the league managed to long-term plan of delivering constant pressure throughout many legislative sessions (118). In time, prohibitionists achieved the Webb-Kenyon Bill, which allowed dry states to stop liquor shipments when the shipments met the states’ border, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court (Lucas 49-50).  With this, the Anti-Saloon League was confident and moved in December 13, 1913 (50). The league proposed the 18th amendment and lost (52; 53). The turning point came on November 21, 1918 when Congress passed the Wartime Prohibition Act (Pegram 147).  This effectively banned making wine or beer starting in May 1919 and after June 30, 1919, alcoholic beverages could not be sold until demobilization (147). Then on January 16, 1919, Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify the amendment (148).

Prohibition made taking wine to a friend, selling it, or drinking in public illegal (Blumenthal 59). One could still drink in private or purchase alcohol (60). A few brewers sold ice cream while others closed shop (62). Soon illegal brew became readily available, with moonshine being made in the country (62; 63).  In place of saloons illegal nightclubs and bars (speakeasies in the East) opened (64). Thirteen years later the amendment was repealed (121).


Work Cited:

Behr, Edward. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America. New York: Arcade

Publishing, 1996. Print.

Blumenthal, Karen. Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition. New

York: Flash Point, 2011. Print.

Lucas, Eileen. The Eighteenth Amendment and the Twenty-First Amendments: Alcohol—

            Prohibition and Repeal. Enslow Publishers, Inc, 1998. Print.

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

Pegram R. Thomas. Battling Demon Rum. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1998. Print.

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