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Prohibition Questions

- What doctors wrote alcohol prescriptions during prohibition? by Sofia

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Prohibition Prohibition in United States was accomplished by means of the Eighteenth Amendment to the national Constitution (ratified January 16, 1919) and the Volstead Act (passed October 28, 1919).

Prohibition began on January 16, 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect. Federal Prohibition agents (police) were given the task of enforcing the law.

Prohibition also referred to that part of the Temperance movement which wanted to make alcohol illegal. Prohibitionists had some success even before national prohibition; in 1905, three American states had already outlawed alcohol; by 1912, it was up to nine states; and, by 1916, legal prohibition was already in effect in 26 of the 48 states.

Even though the sale of alcohol was illegal, alcoholic drinks were still widely available at "speakeasies" and other underground drinking establishments. Speakeasies gained their name from the fact that a patron had to "speak easy" and convince the doorman to let them in. His job was to keep out those who looked like they were "dry" agents. Agents had no forced-entry rights at all, and so could not break into an establishment if the doorman refused them entry. Many people also kept private bars to serve their guests. Large quantities of alcohol were smuggled in from Canada, overland and via the Great Lakes, and from the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Additional alcohol was delivered from Rum Row off the US East Coast.

During Prohibition legal and illegal home brewing was popular. Limited amounts of wine and hard cider were permitted to be made at home. Some commercial wine was still produced in the U.S., but was only available through government warehouses for use in religious ceremonies, particularly for communion in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Episcopal churches and in some Jewish ceremonies. "Malt and hop" stores popped up across the country and some former breweries turned to selling malt extract syrup, ostensibly for baking and "beverage" purposes.

A "Medicinal Alcohol" formWhisky was available by prescription from medical doctors. The labels clearly warned that it was strictly for medicinal purposes and any other uses were illegal, but even so doctors freely wrote prescriptions and druggists filled them without question, and the number of "patients" soared. Authorities never tried to restrict this practice, which was the way many people got their booze: Over a million gallons were consumed per year through freely given prescriptions.

Because Prohibition banned only the manufacture, sale, and transport--but not possession or consumption--of alcohol, some people and institutions who had bought or made liquor prior to the passage of the 18th Amendment were able to continue to serve it throughout the prohibition period legally.

Prohibition brought into being a new kind of criminal--the bootlegger. The career of Al Capone was a dramatic instance of the development of bootlegging on a large scale. His annual earnings were estimated at $60,000,000. The rise of the bootlegging gangs led to a succession of gang wars and murders. A notorious incident was the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929, when the Capone gang shot to death seven members of the rival "Bugs" Moran gang. Historians of the underworld, however, suggest that by the late 1920s bootlegging was on the verge of semimonopoly control and that the end of gang wars was approaching.

The temperance movement itself changed during the 1920s; the fundamentalist and nativist groups assumed greater leadership, tending to drive away less hostile and urban forces.

Prohibition's major suporters gradually became disenchanted with it, citing the increase in criminal liquor production and sale, the development of the speakeasy, and increased restriction on individual freedom as its results. In 1932 the Democratic Party adopted a platform calling for repeal, and the Democratic victory in the presidential election of 1932 sounded the death knell of the Eighteenth Amendment.

In February 1933 Congress adopted a resolution proposing the Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution to repeal the Eighteenth. On Dec. 5, 1933, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, and repeal was achieved. After repeal a few states continued statewide prohibition, but by 1966 all had abandoned it. In general, liquor control in the United States came to be determined more and more at local levels.

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Tags: united states, al capone, alcohol

Category: Education  - ( Education Archive)

Date Added: 27 March '06

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