For thirteen years between 1920 and 1933, the United States had a constitutional ban on the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol. This was the result of a decades-long temperance movement - driven primarily by religious sections of society - that saw alcohol as the cause of poverty, family breakdowns and political corruption. They believed a ban on alcohol would solve these social problems and improve the health of America.
The constitutional amendment was proposed by Congress on December 18, 1917, and was ratified by all states by January 16, 1919. Prohibition across the nation came into force a year later, on January 17, 1920.
The experiment was a failure. Large-scale organized crime boomed in the wake of the ban, with huge amounts of illegal bootlegging occurring (such as that by Al Capone), and speakeasies (illicit establishments selling alcohol) becoming popular. Consumption declined dramatically, and rates of alcohol-related illnesses fell, but crime grew and support for prohibition decreased every year. By 1929 it was widely unpopular and was blamed for a decrease in tax revenue needed during the Great Depression. Presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt included a pledge to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment, and his victory in 1932 spelled an end to the 'noble experiment.'
The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment on December 5, 1933, ending Prohibition, though there are still many communities in America which ban the sale of alcohol.
Author(s): US National Archives
Location signed: USA
Source: Wikimedia Commons
- 1917-12-18 The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, authorizing prohibition of alcohol, is approved by the US congress and sent to the states for ratification
- 1918-01-08 Mississippi becomes 1st state to ratify the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, authorizing the prohibition of alcohol
- 1919-01-16 The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, authorizing the prohibition of alcohol, is ratified by a majority of US states