The Roaring Twenties: Consequences Of Prohibition

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Lea Gurish Ms. Dolar Honors American Literature 17 February 2015 The Roaring Twenties: Consequences of Prohibition The Ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution - which banned the consumption, sale, manufacturing, transportation, import, and export of intoxicating liquor- created a time period in American History known as Prohibition. Although it had begun with a moral intention, prohibition led way to social contention, economic drop, and political stigma. People believed that prohibition would lead to a more urban, industrial diverse society, but instead it caused an increase in criminal activity, drinking, smuggling, propaganda, gangs and social tension. The economy suffered due to the closing of saloons and a cutoff…show more content…
Instead, Prohibition generated a large amount of criminal activity. Gangs began a popular institution (Prohibition). One of the most ruthless gang leaders, Al Capone, supplied alcohol to Chicago. He ran the town like his kingdom and made over sixty million dollars at his peak. He had most of the city officials and police working for him (Okrent 11). Capone’s rivals disappeared in violent gang slayings, leaving the industry open for him. An example of this depravity would be the St. Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929. During this incident, several men dressed as police officers shot and killed a group of men who were thought to be in a different gang. Prohibition also created a negative connotation for immigrants. “With the enactment of Prohibition, the progressive language that had brought allies to the Prohibition campaign now gave way to increasing examples of anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiments and scapegoating. For those who had come to the United States fleeing oppression, Prohibition brought the painful realization that a new form of oppression was being enacted in the hands of the dry lobby” (Lerner ). Just drinking a glass of wine was considered criminal activity and called to question a person’s patriotism and ability to be an American (Lerner ). To many religions, alcohol was looked at as the…show more content…
When the law passed, people believed that the sales of household goods and clothing to skyrocket. Landlords and estate developers expected the rent to rise due to saloons closing and improved neighborhoods. Theatre producers expected people to look for new ways to entertain themselves without alcohol (Phillips). To their misfortune, this did not happen. Restaurants failed because they could not profit without alcohol sales. The closing of breweries, distilleries and saloons led to the elimination of thousands of jobs (Wukovits 203). The American grape growing industry is largely located in California, where there were about seven hundred wineries. Prohibition forced the closure of these wineries and growers stopped growing grapes thinking their market had evaporated. This created an enormous shortage of grapes and caused the price per ton to rise one thousand percent (Kyvig 58). The most profound effect was tax revenues. Many states relied heavily on excise taxes on liquor sales to fund their budget. In New York, seventy five percent of state’s revenue was derived from liquor taxes (Okrent 150). When prohibition went into effect, that revenue was completely lost. Along with lost profit and tax revenues, prohibition allowed for a huge black-market dominated by criminal groups to compete with the formal economy, which came under pressure when the Great Depression began in 1929 (Kyvig 55).

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