Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 5, 2013
End of Prohibition

End of Prohibition

December 5, 1933: Utah ratifies the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution. Congress proposed the Amendment on February 21, 1933. The first state to ratify came on April 10 when Michigan approved adoption. Wisconsin was second on April 25. Two more states were added in May and June saw the list grow by five more. July brought the total to 15 and August added another 5 states. September, October, and November brought the total to 33. Thirty-six states needed to ratify in order for the Amendment to pass. On December 5 first Ohio, then Pennsylvania, and finally Utah ratified the document.

The 21st Amendment repeals the 18th Amendment which was ratified on January 16, 1919 and certified on January 29. It went into effect on January 29, 1920. It prohibited the “manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the US and all her territories. The 18th Amendment is the only one to ever be repealed. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th and allowed states, territories, or possession of the US to construct laws regarding the beverages.

The 18th Amendment is sometimes called the “noble experiment.” The plan was to reduce crime and corruption and improve social issues including prisons, poorhouses, poor health, and hygiene. It did not work as planned. Alcohol was not banned in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Their exports to the US were fanned out across the country with Chicago as a major distribution hub. Al Capone and Bugs Moran made millions via illegal alcohol sales. Speakeasies sprang up with 10,000 in Chicago alone, all under Capone’s control.

We can’t really track overall alcohol consumption during the time the 18th Amendment was in effect. Deaths due to cirrhosis dipped from about 12/100,000 to 7/100,000 during the time. They did not reach 12 again until the mid-1960s and peaked in the late-1970s. Today there are about 10/100,000. The homicide rate increased during Prohibition and then declined until the late 1960s. That number has remained high since then. The second peak coincides with the War on Drugs in the US.

“Prohibition is better than no liquor at all.” – Will Rogers

“Prohibition makes you want to cry into your beer and denies you the beer to cry into.” – Don Marquis

“A prohibitionist is the sort of man one couldn’t care to drink with, even if he drank.” – H. L. Mencken

“We find many things to which the prohibition of them constitutes the only temptation.” – William Hazlitt

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The American Temperance Society was founded on February 13, 1826 in Boston, Massachusetts. Lyman Beecher and Dr. Just Edwards, both preachers, were the company-founders of the society with Rev Joshua Leavitt as the first secretary. There were over 2,000 local chapters within just five years and more than 170,000 members all of whom had pledged to abstain from drinking distilled beverages. Five years later, there were over 8,000 chapters and 1.5 million non-drinkers. About 35-60% of the local chapter members were women. Their influence spread and in 1869 they were able to form the Prohibition Party which is still in existence today. They have, to date, won no elections on the federal or state level although they did manage to secure 519 votes in the 2012 Presidential election. After the end of slavery, it was hoped that an end to demon rum could follow. It took decades before the experiment could be tried. It failed.

Also on this day: Off Into the Wild Blue Yonder – In 1945, five US Air Force planes are lost and a rescue plane also goes missing.
Going, Going, Gone – In 1766, Christie’s Auction House was formed.
Yelling “Fire” in a Crowded Theater – In 1876, a fire at the Brooklyn Theater killed over 300.

Volstead Act

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2011

It's the law

October 28, 1919: The Volstead Act becomes effective. Also called the National Prohibition Act, it was passed over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson. The Anti-Saloon League and Wayne Wheeler thought up the bill which was named for Andrew Volstead who was Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. This committee managed the legislation. The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibited the production, sale, and transport of “intoxicating liquors” but it did not define what those were. The Eighteenth Amendment had already passed but did not go into effect until January 17, 1920.

The American Temperance Society (ATS) began to advocate for a booze-free nation as early as 1826. This group served as a model for many later groups and by 1935 they had a membership of 1.5 million. At the time, but population of the US was about 14.5 million. During the nineteenth century, there was some success with limiting alcohol. Some states managed to pass legislation but these laws did not last long. Many of the prohibitionists were women and had religious reasons as well as personal issues with the demon rum.

There were several unintentional consequences of Prohibition. During this time, people drank just as much liquor as they ever had except now it was being produced by bootleggers. The transportation of illegal beverages is now credited with a massive increase in organized crime. The problems with alcohol remained regardless of how strictly enforced the laws became. In fact, even long-time supporters eventually turned to the other side, citing the problems associated with the distribution and sale of illegal liquors and the crime issues involved.

There are some who point to today’s issues with criminal organizations as an aftermath of this attempt to control alcohol. Because of the risks involved, getting more “customers” was part of the job of the criminals. They needed a wider market base in order to achieve proper profit margins. They found their new client base in women who began to drink more heavily during this time. Winemaking also began to spread. Farmers were permitted to make certain wines and these became quite popular, especially increasing the number of California wine growers. Grape products were sold with a warning/instructions on how to dissolve a concentrated product and getting wine in only 20 days.

“For every prohibition you create you also create an underground.” – Jello Biafra

“Prohibition has made nothing but trouble.” – Al Capone

“Prohibition is better than no liquor at all.” – Will Rogers

“Prohibition? HA! They tried that in the movies and it didn’t work.” – Homer Simpson

Also on this day:
Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
The Two Sisters – In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 16, 2010

"For the sake of the children" has been used for a long time now

January 16, 1919: The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution is ratified and it goes into effect on this date one year later. The Amendment banned the sale and/or transportation of alcoholic beverages. This was termed Prohibition, due to the prohibition of liquor as hoped for by the Temperance Movement. That movement began in the US in 1789 when Benjamin Rush and about 200 farmers formed a temperance association in Connecticut. The movement picked up steam and spread fairly rapidly until 1820 when it stalled for a few years. The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826 and within a dozen years had over 1,500,000 members.

Drinking did not, however, disappear with the passage of the Amendment. It was legal to make a limited amount of wine and hard cider in one’s home. Whiskey was available by prescription “for medical purposes only” and filled by druggists without question. Religious ceremonial use was not curtailed.

“Speakeasies” which were bars that operated outside the law sprang up around the nation. Al Capone became one of the most famous bootleggers of the time and operated mainly out of Chicago. The concept of banning liquor has been tried in various places around the globe at different times in recent history without much success. The idea became increasingly unpopular in the States. First to return to markets were 3.2% beers and light wines. Finally the Twenty-First Amendment was passed and Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

The first half of the 20th century saw Prohibition efforts in several countries without any more success than in the US.  Even in our modern age there are still places on the planet where alcohol consumption is punishable by government agencies. Some counties in the US, as well as some countries in the world e.g. Libya and Sudan still prohibit the sale of alcohol. And in some countries like Tunisia and Morocco they allow sales to tourists, but not to locals.

“Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.” – W. C. Fields

“Instead of giving money to found colleges to promote learning, why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as the Prohibition one did, why, in five years we would have the smartest race of people on earth.” – Will Rogers

“Laws do not persuade just because they threaten.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“A hangover is the wrath of grapes.” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1964 the original Broadway production of Hello Dolly! began its run.

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