Prohibition Sources Coursework.

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Prohibition Sources Coursework

Source A and B are both secondary sources from American history books published in the 1970’s. Both these accounts are written by different historians, and therefore there are similarities as they are both aware of the facts behind prohibition, and the points that cannot be disputed. However there are also contrasting opinions as the individuals have different perceptions of situations and consequently hold some different views.

Both sources A and B agree that prohibition caused more violence, crime and protest than there was when people were allowed to drink alcohol. Source A believes this to be due to the fact this law alone affected such a large number of American’s, ‘customs, habits and desires’. This statement gives us the impression that the writer thought the failure of Prohibition was inevitable, however we must remember that, as it is a secondary source the writer had the benefit of hindsight.

Source B subtly places some of the blame of Prohibitions failure upon the first Prohibition Commissioner and his Prohibition agents. It claims that the Commissioner ‘had no doubts that he would stamp out the evils of drink.’ This is a slightly biased view and maybe is more opinion than fact. The writer then goes on to say, that there were 1500 prohibition agents to help the commissioner, but ‘By 1928 there were more than 30,000 speakeasies in New York alone.’ Therefore he is saying, by putting these facts together that there were not nearly enough people enforcing the law so perhaps the failure of prohibition was inevitable. Source B explains the role of the gangsters such as Al Capone and Dutch Schulz and the role they had in the increase of violence and organised crime. Although source A does not mention gangsters directly it explains how the law created ‘widespread crime’ and the ‘greatest criminal boom in American history’. It seems that there were two levels of crime, the gangster’s big business, supplying alcohol, and the American people that attended the speakeasies and drank alcohol. Source A appears to focus more on the crime of just drinking the alcohol, whereas Source B is more interested in the bigger crimes the gangsters were committing. However both sources agree that the consequences of prohibition were widespread crime and protest.

Source A begins with, ‘Historians disagree about what was mainly responsible for the introduction of Prohibition.’ This is evident as both sources A and B give different reasons. Prohibition came into effect during 1920; however source A claims that 23 states were already exercising a ban on alcohol in 1917. Source B mentions nothing about this. I think source A is implying that the 23 states that were already banning alcohol so the government knew it would get support if it backed the policy. Some of the causes of prohibiting alcohol according to source A are, bad influence of saloons, the need for preserving grain for food during the war, the belief that it was helping the German-Americans who were important in the brewing and distilling of alcohol, and the influence of the Anti-Saloon League. Although source A mentions all these points, it believes the most important reason was the moral excitement created by the, ‘War to Make the World Safe for Democracy’. Source B does not even mention this campaign, or any of the other explanations source A gives, bar the Anti-Saloon League. The historian who wrote source B believed the main causes of prohibition were the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti–Saloon League. Source B does not really go into more detail than this but many of the points made by source A would have been arguments that both these movements would have used to win support for their case. Although these sources start out with possible varying views by the end they have agreed that the consequence of prohibition was crime and that it had totally failed.

I believe source A is more balanced and measured whereas source B seems to be more anti alcohol.

b) The two posters, sources C and D are clearly both in favour of Prohibition, although both posters were written before Prohibition was introduced. The poster in source C was published in 1910, five years before the poster in source D and 10 years before Prohibition came into effect across the United States in 1920.  Both posters were used to gain support for prohibition and were directed at people from all walks of life.

Both posters were designed to appeal to people’s caring, sensitive nature.

Both posters could have been published by a number of people, for example the Anti-Saloon League, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union or other Christian/Temperance movements.  From research I have done into Prohibition, I am aware that the Anti-Saloon League issued the poster in source D.

Source C shows the inside of a saloon that is named “The Poor Man’s Club”.  Underneath this title is written, “The most expensive in the world to belong to”.  It depicts a well-dressed man handing over a bag of money, which is labelled “week’s wages” to the barman. The barman is wearing a huge grin on his face. The words at the top of the poster suggest that men who go to saloons get caught up in a vicious circle. They go there with the wages they have earned to buy alcohol. However the families need the money for food and clothing, but the men spend it in the saloon so the family has to go without. The more they drink, the more they want and the more money they spend. At the bottom of the poster it says, “slaves of the saloon”, meaning the men are unable to break the habit. I think the barman looks like a conman and this is probably what he is meant to represent. I think the publishers of the posters want him portrayed in a bad light. From looking at the poster I think he looks like he knows that he is conning people out of money but does not care. If others see it this way they will not have a problem with putting him out of business by campaigning for Prohibition. The words, “The Poor Mans Club” suggest that the saloon is keeping families poor.   It does not let people get rich.

At the bottom left of the poster is a caption.  It reads, ‘ A club member in good standing paying his dues’. This just reinforces what I have said, above. I think it is quite clever to call it a club as it emphasises the fact that the men go there very regularly, just as you would if you were a member of a club.  The bag labelled ”week’s wages”, could represent the money you might pay to belong to a certain club, however the saloon is “The most expensive in the world” as you have to pay all your wages as the membership fee.

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In the bottom right hand corner there is a small area showing what looks like the man’s family while he is out at the saloon. The woman, possibly his wife, looks upset and despondent. There is no food on the table. There is also a young toddler sitting in his high chair apparently oblivious to what is going on. This small section showing the wife and child would help appeal to people’s sensitive and caring side. People want to help vulnerable people especially children. This aspect appeals to people’s love for children and their desire to protect them. It ...

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