Good-bye, Prohibition!

5 Dec

On this day in 1933 Prohibition ended in the United States. It had begun thirteen years earlier with passage of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution; that Amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors.

Sheet music for a popular temperance song in 1900.

Sheet music for a popular temperance song in 1900.

Isabella Alden was a staunch supporter of Prohibition, and her best friend, Theodosia Foster, dedicated her writings to the temperance movement by ensuring there was a strong anti-alcohol message in every story and novel she published.

An 1888 illustration of the principles of the prohibition party, showing Americans abandoning saloons, prisons, wineries, and insane asylums for a moral life centered around Sunday school and church.

An 1888 illustration of the principles of the prohibition party, showing Americans abandoning saloons, prisons, wineries, and insane asylums for a moral life centered around Sunday school and church.

Like Isabella and Theodosia, supporters of Prohibition believed that Prohibition was a “Noble Experiment” that would improve the nation’s moral and physical health, and curb the growing incidents of violence against women and children.

farewell-prohibition

In many ways, the 18th Amendment achieved those goals, but there were some unintended consequences, too.

It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime.

Two men and a still.

Two men and a still.

The number of deaths from poisoning skyrocketed, as Americans resorted to improperly brewing their own alcohol or resorted to drinking industrial alcohol, with deadly consequences.

Perhaps most significant were the financial consequences. In cities like Milwaukee, Seattle, and St. Louis, thousands of people found themselves out of work when the breweries shut down. And many states, as well as the Federal government, became cash strapped when they could no longer collect liquor taxes. New York was especially hit hard; almost 75% of that state’s revenue was derived from liquor sales.

beer-car-after-repeal

In the end, the “Noble Experiment” failed. The few benefits achieved by prohibition weren’t enough to offset the proliferation of organized crime and the hard financial consequences for average Americans. The 18th Amendment was repealed by passage of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933.

There’s a great website you can visit to learn more about life in America during Prohibition. Click here.

 

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One Response to “Good-bye, Prohibition!”

  1. Karen December 5, 2016 at 6:12 am #

    I guess it’s true–you can’t really legislate morality–you can only enforce laws. How sad is it that today, the booze flows unhindered, ruining lives as always, but now is joined to a terrible epidemic of drug use, particularly among the young, where heroin is the drug of choice, followed closely by meth and crack cocaine. In a way, I’m glad Isabella and Grace were spared this version of “liberty”–it’s a subject of frequent prayer in my fellowship community. Thanks for this post–it’s a good reminder of how important it is to keep true to our principles and to help others who have become addicts to substances that are spawned in Hell.

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Isabella Alden

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