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Why was prohibition such a controversial issue in the 1920s?

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Why was prohibition such a controversial issue in the 1920s? Prohibition took place between January 1920 and December 1933, and was the statutory prevention of the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the USA. The policy emerged from the First World War and the moral climate of the United States at the time. Prohibition was and still is a source of discussion and debate, making it a highly contentious issue. Seen by many as the 'great experiment' of the 20th century, public opinion on the restriction was split, and prohibition was bound from the outset to be controversial. The social and cultural climate in America during the early 1900s was changing. Many American people were desperate to hang on to the Christian ideas of the 19th century. It was this feeling that helped the development of pro-prohibition groups, the main one being the Anti-Saloon League. Formed in 1896, they focused only on the legal prohibition of alcoholic beverages and were very successful, forcing 28 states into adopting prohibition laws before 1920. Supporters of prohibition tended to live in small towns in the South or West, were Protestant and voted Republican. ...read more.


In five years he made $5,000,000. Because of low salaries and the near-impossible nature of the job, many prohibition agents were corrupt. They were able to make huge amounts of money selling illegal licences and pardons to bootleggers. Even the most successful prohibition officers like Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith were seen as comical characters because of their witty and inventive methods of catching the bootleggers. Ultimately, their reputation added to the farcical nature of the Bureau. The officers could never have been able to fully stop bootlegging or shut down all of the speakeasies. One of the biggest and most controversial problems that arose from prohibition was the explosive rise in crime and gangsterism. The American Mafia grew during the prohibition period, making money importing alcohol from Canada. The organised gangs were mostly situated in big cities. The most infamous and powerful bootlegger was Al Capone, who operated out of Chicago. Capone built a fearsome reputation in the gang rivalries of the time, which grew as Capone's gang eliminated others. A good example of how prohibition fuelled gang warfare and increased the crime rate in America is the Valentine's Day massacre, which took place on 14 February 1929. ...read more.


Arrests for drunkenness and disorderly conduct increased by 41% and arrests for drink driving rose by 81% during the period of prohibition. Also, because beer was difficult to transport the prices rose. Americans bought spirits instead as they were cheaper and stronger. In 1925 there were 4,154 deaths from liquor poisoning, compared to 1920 when there were only 1,064. Following figures like these being released, President Hoover admitted in 1932 that prohibition had failed and should be abolished. In March 1933 Roosevelt approved the 21st amendment to the constitution, repealing prohibition. Prohibition was such a controversial issue in the 1920s because it was fairly quickly shown to be pointless. While the government battled on people kept on drinking. The 'drys' lost all their power and public opinion of the 'great experiment' changed. It was disputed and debated so much because it was continued when it was obviously a failure. Nothing good was coming out of prohibition during the 1920s, in fact deaths and injuries were rising because of it. Experiments on such a scale as this will always be controversial. But the difference with prohibition was that at the start it wasn't a hugely controversial issue; it grew and developed into one. It was due to government stubbornness and inefficiency that social unrest and criminal activity prevailed in 1920s America. ...read more.

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