America in the 1920s

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Sonia Nabi

History coursework-America in the 1920s

America in The 1920s

Why did prohibition in the USA lead to a growth in the crime rate?

Prohibition was the forbidding by law of the manufacture of sale of alcoholic drinks.

In the nineteenth century, in rural areas of America there was a very strong temperance movement. Members of the temperance movements agreed not to drink alcohol and also campaigned to get others to get others to give up alcohol. Most of these members were Christians who saw the damage alcohol id to family life. In some areas the temperance movements were so strong that they persuaded their own government to prohibit the sale of alcohol within the state. Trough the early twentieth century the campaign gathered pace and became a national campaign to ban alcohol throughout the country. Leading industries like Nelson Rockfeller backed the movement believing workers would be more reliable if they did not drink. Politicians also backed it because they saw it got them votes in rural areas. The campaign became one of the countries values against city values. In 1912 the movement had enough states o its side to propose the 18th Amendment to the constitution. This prohibited the manufacture, sales or transportation of intoxicating liquors. It became law on 1919.

Prohibition never had strong support in the urban states. One state, Maryland, never introduced it. In all states the authorities quickly found that it is one thing passing a law to prohibit alcohol and another to enforce it. The government appointed thousands of federal agents to destroy liquor supplies and to arrest anyone breaking the law.

In some rural states prohibition worked in a limited way, however in cities it soon became clear that prohibition was not stopping Americans drinking. Instead of USA being a dry country, prohibition simply turned many citizens in to law-breakers. Some people were setting up their own ‘moonshine’ (home-made whisky). Many went to the illegal bars called speakeasies.  

The demand for illegal alcohol opened up a brand new trade for American gangsters to control which was even more worrying. Gangs in the major cities fought to supply the speakeasies with ‘bootleg’ alcohol smuggled in from Canada, or manufactured illegally in the USA. Al Capone was one of the biggest gangsters and he took over Chicago and made $60 million a year from bootlegging. He said ‘Prohibition is a business; all I do is supply a public demand’. His gang was like a private army, he had 700 men under his comman, many of them armed with sawn-off shot guns and Thompson sub machine guns- ‘Chicago Capone’s rivals were slaughtered. 227 rival gangsters were ‘rubbed out’ in four years. On a single day, 14 February 1929, Capones men machine-gunned seven members of the Bugs Moran gang in the St Valentine Day’s Massacre.

Gangs were not only involved in bootlegging. They also made money out of rackets. Businessmen and shopkeepers had to pay ‘protection money’ to gangsters ‘education committee’ Capone made a further $10 million a year from racketeering. He was able to get away with crime because he had Chicago’s police and politicians in his pay. Over half the police force took bribes from him. Even through Capone was ‘Public Enemy Number One’ , judges and police chiefs socialised with him at cocktail parties and called him Al.

It was the federal government that finally dealt with Capone. In 1931 he was found guilty of tax evasion an sentenced to eleven years in prison.

   He had a private army of hoodlums who fought with the rival gangs to defend their business.

Prohibitions lead a lead to increase crime. This was because the St Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, eight rivals were gunned down, but it was only part of a massive problem of escalating violence. In two years In Cook County, Chicago, there were 130 gangland murders for which not a single killer was arrested. One gang had four hundred police officers on its pay roll. To add to the gangland deaths there were other health problems. The drink sold in the speakeasies was sometimes dangerous made form industrial alcohol. There were numerous cases of poisoning, blindness and death caused by illegally made alcohol. Prohibition made America more lawless, this was because the police was more corrupt and it made the gangsters rich.

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Why did the USA experience racial problems in the 1920s?

The 1920s witnessed the coming of the "Second Wave" of immigrants to the United States. These immigrants differed from the "First Wave" of  European immigrants to the United States in that the  majority of them  were  from Southern or Eastern Europe, whereas in the past the majority   had been from Western European nations such as Great Britain, France, and Germany. The immigrants came to the U.S. seeking better economic opportunities for their families, but very often they came across strong feelings of prejudice and nativism from the Americans. The Italians and Irish-Catholics provide good ...

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