The impact of Prohibition

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  • The impact of Prohibition
    • Illegal activities
      • Liquor consumption did drop by 30% but many ordinary Americans turned into criminals
      • Found ways around the law
        • Brewed 'moonshine' and 'bathtub gin'
        • 'Bootlegging' - especially from the West Indies (e.g. the Bahamas)
        • Smuggled across the Canadian and Mexican borders
          • 18,700 miles of coastline and land boarders
        • Stole medicinal alcohol or communion wine
        • Visited 'speakeasies' (e.g. in 1925 there were 100,000 in New York City alone)
        • Carried alcohol in hollowed out canes or false books
      • Hard for federal government to enforce Prohibition in every state, especially where temperance movement was weak (i.e. Maryland)
      • Also led to organised crime - by the end of the 1920s it was a big business
    • Organised crime
      • Organised, illegal activities by gangs
      • Gangs took over closed distilleries and many bought their product
      • Advancements in technology in the 1920s made them more efficient
        • Used sub-machine guns for warfare
        • Used cars for transportation and quick getaways
      • Gangs in different territories became rivals over drink trade, protection, drugs, gambling, and prostitution
      • Gang warfare emerged (e.g. St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, Al Capone murdered 6 members of rival Irish gang led by Bugs Moran)
        • Crime seen as a problem caused by immigrants
      • Al Capone became a notorious gang leader operating mainly in Chicago
        • In 1927, he 'earned' $27 mil a year
        • Only convicted of tax evasion in 1931 and was sentenced to 11 years in jail - released in 1937
    • The fight against organised crime
      • A Bureau of Prohibition was established to enforce the Act
      • Prohibition agents work for the federal government and alongside local police
        • Eliot Ness and his men gained a reputation for being honest at a time when many local police were being bribed
          • Known as 'The Untouchables'
      • Federal government constantly refused to provide sufficient funds
        • 3,000 agents to cover the whole country and only paid $2,500 a year
        • Anti-Saloon League stated that $5 mil needed to enforce Prohibition but department only got $2 mil
        • Left many police vulnerable to bribery
    • The end of Prohibition
      • By 1930s support for Prohibition was declining
        • Was turning ordinary citizens into criminals and brought fear of gangs and crime
      • Progressives were strong supporters but Progressive movement had declined
      • Democrats were divided and they wanted to be united
      • 1929 - President Hoover established the Wickersham Commission to investigate the issue
        • Admitted that Prohibition couldn't be enforced even though they supported it
      • Prohibition ended in 1933 - FDR
      • By 1933, some were known as 'moists' as they'd rather have moderation of the law rather then outright repeal
      • 21st Amendment passed in March 1933 and it repealed the 18th
      • Beer Act allowed the sale of 3.2% alcohol
        • FDR also able to use tax from alcohol to help pay for the New Deal
      • 1935 - formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
        • J Edgar Hoover was its director


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