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Herbert Hoover

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 07:15 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 47.3 
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Herbert Hoover called it a "noble experiment." Organized crime found it to be the opportunity of a lifetime. Millions of Americans denounced it as an infringement of their rights. For nearly 14 years—from Jan. 29, 1920, until Dec. 5, 1933--the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal in the United States. The 18th, or Prohibition, Amendment to the Constitution was passed by Congress and submitted to the states in 1917. By Jan. 29, 1919, it had been ratified. Enforcement legislation entitled the National Prohibition Act (or more popularly, the Volstead act, after Representative Andrew J. Volstead of Minnesota) was passed on Oct. 28, 1919, over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto.

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States not only prohibited the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors," but their importation and exportation also. It was adopted after a nationwide crusade by temperance groups, notably the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, or WCTU. The amendment was enforced and defined by Congress in the Volstead Act. One result of the amendment was that the production and sale of alcoholic beverages became the province of organized crime. Americans did not stop drinking, and their demands for liquor were met by wide-scale smuggling and bootlegging, much of which was controlled by such gangs as that led by Al Capone in Chicago. The era of prohibition ended in 1933 when the 18th Amendment was repealed by the twenty-first Amendment.

The stage was set for more than a decade of combat between the "wets" and the "drys"—those determined to keep drinking and those determined to enforce the law. In retrospect, the period has been called the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age. New music appeared along with new dances, a new feminism, and a general relaxation of standards after the rigorous years of World War I. The new mood was in complete contrast to...


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