Miranda Lewis Prohibition Coursework Nov. 2001
History coursework; PROHIBITION
- What can you learn from Source A about why the Anti-Saloon League opposed the sale of alcohol?
The Anti-Saloon League opposed the sale of alcohol because they believed that drinking makes you poor. They campaigned saying “It keeps its members and their families always poor.” They see the men that drink in saloons wasting their wages by spending it on alcohol. “Something which ruins their own lives.” This is clearly displayed in the poster by the customer paying for his drink with a bag of his weeks wages.” From the source one can see that the Anti-Saloon League opposed the sale of alcohol because they believed that men were wasting all their money on alcohol and therefore not having enough to feed their families or to buy household necessities. Saloons were named by the Anti-Saloon League as the “Poor Man’s Club.” This is obviously shown in the poster by using big bold letters that have a dramatic impact among readers. Richmond P Hobson say drinkers as, “Slaves of the Saloon,” this is also displayed through the source. 160
- What reasons for prohibition, apart form those given in Source A, are given in Sources B and C?
Source B gives an objective view, from a school textbook it informs us that there were other anti-drink societies for example the “Women’s Christian Temperance Union” who also campaigned against alcohol, they say alcohol as “ungodly.” We are also told that several states had already passed prohibition lows in the 19th Century, and that there was a National Prohibition Party who opposed the Presidential election in 1892. Source B tells us that during World War I, grain that was used in brewing was needed for food so therefore its use in the manufacture of alcohol was banned in 1917. Information extracted form Source b tells us that beer drinking was associated with the Germans. Mainly because many Germans that immigrated to America worked in the brewing industry and as there was hostility towards Germany due to the war prohibition received a boost. Looking a source C we can find another reason for prohibition, taken from a study of prohibition published in 1975 in enlightens us that many powerful men, including John D. Rockefeller who worked in business, industry and finance believed that employees would be more efficient and productive if beer and liquor could be withheld from them. Apart from in Source A there are many other reasons for prohibition given in sources B and C. 216
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- Is the message of Source E supported by the evidence of Sources F and G? Explain your answer by reference to all these sources.
Source E is a German cartoon showing Uncle Sam, appearing helpless. The “devil” is providing the drink and there is nothing Uncle Sam can do to stop it, the drink is coming in heavily. The cartoon shows that prohibition is a task that Uncle Sam is incapable of handling, drink and the devil will return. Source F backs up source E showing that the Government couldn’t keep up with prohibition. They provided a force that only numbered 1,520 men in 1920 and in 10 years the number only increased by 1,316 men. Source F claims that anyone who believed that these men (earning only $30-50 a week) would have expert technical knowledge and the assiduousness to supervise prohibition and resist corruption by men with pockets bulging full of money, would be as gullible to believe in Santa Claus, perpetual motion and Pixies. This demonstrates that the Government’s actions to control prohibition was clearly inadequate, this is also portrayed in the cartoon by the prominent, helpless, defenceless figure known as Uncle Sam who represented America.
Source G also supports the messages in sources E and F. The table adds to the evidence that clearly displays America not handling prohibition effectively. Between 1920 and 1925 arrests for drunkenness rose at a steady rate, drunkenness and disorderly conduct arrests fluctuation, arrests for Habitual/regular drunkards rose (dramatically between 1923-4) and then fell in 1925 and arrests made for drunken driving increased from 1922 onwards. The total prosecutions for drink related offences increased in 1920 to 1925, this main data is extremely important, from it we can obviously see that Americas efforts to control prohibition were useless as the arrests for drinking offences rose. This is also portrayed through Uncle Sam in source E, there is nothing he could do, he was effectively powerless. 299
4. Explain why the way of life described in Source D did not come about.
The way of life is described in Source D as being crimeless, alcohol free, hopeful, there would be more respect for the law and full off better workers. Christmas is described as “an occasion of joy and cheer in the home.” This is clearly an article ridden with assumption, hope and reassurance. There was hope that America would become a pure and happy nation. Dated only one year after the introduction of prohibition its claims are extremely ambitious. Source F shows the government’s weak and “laid back” approach to the management of prohibition. They didn’t provide nearly enough agents and their lax enforcement and low wages are reasons that contributed to why the way of life described in source D didn’t come about. Prohibition to some especially those who lived in the urban areas was a very unpopular law as many didn’t see alcohol as a problem. So the government was naïve to think that so little agents could enforce this unpopular law. As the agents were paid very badly it meant they were sometimes very willing to accept bribes, many government officials and police officers were corrupt and some breweries remained in business because they bribed officials. The hopeful dream of a alcohol free country described in source D didn’t come about due to the government’s inefficient enforcement of prohibition due to fear and bribery. The quote from Al Capone is showing an obvious disregard for the law it is clearly saying that there is a market for alcohol and as long as people have access to it will be impossible to enforce prohibition and therefore create a life as perfect as that described in source D. Al Capone describes himself as “a business man” he his merely catering for a market that want alcohol and due to men like Al Capone and gangsters they will continue to consume it. It is known that Al Capone made around $60 million a year from his speakeasies proving that the law and police officers couldn’t manage the huge problem of alcohol and prohibition. 342
- How useful are these sources in helping you to understand public attitudes to prohibition in the 1920’s and early 1930’s?
Source I is very useful as it is first hand evidence, it is a primary source as Alec Wilder was around in the 1920’s and early 1930’s. The source gives us insight into the public attitudes towards prohibition. In the source Wilder says “I loved speakeasies, they were so romantic. As soon as you walked in the door you were a special person.” This shows us that the public that went to the illegal speakeasies had a total disregard for the law. It made Alec Wilder feel special and he had become accustomed to being dishonest and breaking the law. Source J is also useful as the book, “Only Yesterday” was written in 1931, however it could be bias as it is written by a American journalist that may include his personal opinions. It states that the profits from beer and illicit distilling rolled in. This proves that the public were still consuming alcohol illegally, and therefore completely ignoring the ban of alcohol. The source also educates us that Al Capone was a very influential man. He acquired more finesse particularly skill in the management of politics and politicians as his profits increased. The extent of his popularity is displayed by the fact that he had gained complete control of Cicero and had installed his own mayor in office. His popularity is also portrayed through the front cover of the magazine “Time” (Source L.) “Time” is a leading American weekly magazine and the fact that he is on the front cover tells us a lot about public attitudes towards Prohibition. In a way appearing on the front cover, is his personal advertising campaign, it proves that he was a respected man amoung the American public. Information from source J proves that he is an extremely influential man and source L also backs this up.