Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Long Dry Years: Prohibition


 Prohibition, the legal end to alcohol manufacture, consumption in the United States, also known as the Volstead Act, came into play as the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution  in 1920. For years prior to the enactment of the law, the temperance movement had pushed forward under the auspices of such groups as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Prohibition Party, and the Anti-Saloon League. Several attempts to bring about the end of “demon rum” had failed, but on October 28, 1919, the National Prohibition Act became the rule of law.
     Of course, people found many ways to get around the law, including the sale of malt extract syrup for ‘baking purposes’. Bathtub gin kept the home fires cozy. And, people like Al Capone took advantage of the illicit demand for alcohol to make a killing—sometimes quite literally. Capone controlled the flow of liquor from Canada to Florida and its sale in over 10,000 speakeasies to the tune of $60 million per year.
     Despite the upswing of violent crime, Prohibition continued as the law of the land into the thirties and the Depression but met its end with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5, 1933. States became the authority in setting regulations regarding the sale of alcohol.
     The Roaring Twenties provided fodder for song, dance, stories, and other entertainment. Flappers, speakeasies, and gangster activity pervaded everything. The Prohibition Era lasted only thirteen years, but the changes it wrought have become part of the fabric of the country’s history.
      Al Capone is featured as a (fictional and ghostly) character in the Dreamland Series. A former colleague of Trixie's great-grandfather--whose penchant for illicit dealings trickled down to the second generation--the smoke from Al's cigar wafts through Trixie's legacy, the Quimby Building, and heralds trouble with every breath. 

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