The USA Was Prohibition bound To Fail?

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Sam McManus 11S


Was Prohibition bound To Fail?

(A) Sources A and B

From studying source A and B your first impression of the texts is that the sources agrees with the initial idea of prohibition, by displaying information concerning the factors of alcohol being banned, such as at the beginning of source A “by 1917 twenty three states had already introduced a ban on alcohol.” From first reading the source you would immediately get the impression that if twenty three states had already banned alcohol there must be a plausible reason for there actions because that’s almost half of the American states who decided to put a ban on alcohol Some of the first states to become dry in the USA were the southern states. Most of them were actually dry by 1914. These states were often very racist and banning alcohol was another form of them taking freedoms away from black people. They said, “…it was a way of keeping the Negro in his place.”

Both sources lead to some of the reasons why twenty-three states could of even considered the banning of alcohol. Initially the banning of alcohol was given momentum in World War I as many young men were away fighting against Germany. Apart from the fact that alcohol was believed to make them ill, it was argued that soldiers were getting drunk and were not able to fire straight. Prohibition was therefore said to be patriotic and would help the war effort and defeat Germany. A German company called Pabst and Burch brewed a lot of the beer that was drunk in America. Much of the barley used in brewing could be used to produce rations for the allies so for these reasons drinking alcohol was said to be unpatriotic. The food and fuel control act banned the use of grain for brewing alcohol. Some people considered alcohol to lead to absenteeism and also reduced the production in factories. Industry therefore supported prohibition as they thought it would make them more money. Prohibition soon became a national political issue. People were encouraged to vote for “dry” candidates in elections by groups such as- “The Anti-Saloon League”- and- “The Women’s Christian Temperance Union”. Politicians soon caught on that by supporting prohibition they gained votes and the National Prohibition Party was set up. For all these reasons Prohibition came about in 1919. It pleased some of the people highlighted above but it also angered many ordinary people who felt they were doing nothing wrong by having a drink.  

In the last paragraphs of sources A and B it goes on to say that prohibition “created the biggest criminal boom in American history” and explains that prohibition went against so many “customs, habits, and desires” and practically forced people to break the law. Crime figures rocketed. Previously law-abiding citizens became criminals for having an alcoholic drink, which many people continued to do. Therefore far from reducing the crime rate in the USA prohibition increased it.  Society changed dramatically in the USA in the 1920’s. Although drinking, selling and transporting alcohol was supposed to reduce crime, poverty, death rates, and improve the economy and the quality of life the “noble experiment” only caused to do the opposite, and theoretically did more harm then good.

 Speakeasies were introduced which were bars where people could drink alcohol. Patrons had to speak very quietly or ‘easy’ to get in so that they wouldn’t be arrested hence the name. These places prospered as drinking alcohol became more fashionable and by 1928 there were at least 30,000 in New York. Gangsters like Al Capone had turned the avoidance of prohibition into big violent business where criminals would profit from other people’s desires.

From studying sources A and B thoroughly you are given the impression that both sources initially support the idea of prohibition and state the facts concerning how it could have came about and how people supported it, and why there was so much bad feeling concerning the matter. But both sources go on to say how it created the biggest criminal boom in American history and encouraged gangsters to profit from the illegal side of selling and producing alcohol. I think both sources don’t necessarily agree or disagree on prohibition because they both state how it came about and how it failed they don’t give there own personal opinion on the matter there just stating the facts. You could argue that because both sources were written in the seventies, there might have been a different opinion on the matter then now. How they layout both sources could be argued as well, because they seem to leave how prohibition failed at the end of the sources and write at the beginning how it came about and why, if you but the failure at the beginning and put how it came about at the end, it would give a different opinion on the whole matter. But my personal feeling is that they both in contrast don’t agree and don’t disagree, yes they might have wrote more about how it came about and why, and they may have only wrote less on how it failure, but there is not any pro founding evidence to suggest that whether these two sources were for or against prohibition.

(B) Sources C and D

In source C, at the top of the poster it says “The poor man’s club.” “The most expensive in the world to belong to.” This means that the saloon is shown as an expensive elite club where men spend all their weekly wages, just for alcohol. In the poster it shows lot’s of men in a saloon drinking and a man with a bag full of money just about to pay with a tag coming off it saying “weeks wage”, on the bottom of the poster it says “A club member in good standing” “Paying his dues” meaning that he is paying his fee for being a member at the club which he does every week once he’s got his weekly wages, the man is obviously handing over his weeks wage to the bar tender to buy some alcohol when he could be spending it on food for his family, and the bar tender stands with his arms out with a happy face willing to accept the money in exchange for the alcohol. This symbolises that the bar tender is shown as being just as bad as the man buying the alcohol.

Also in the poster there’s a little circle showing the man’s house where his wife is looking like she’s crying on the table and the man’s son is looking into an empty pan this shows that his family is poor and hungry, while there husband/dad is out spending precious money on the evils of alcohol instead of spending it on food or on a future. In the circle there is little writing “The saloon is well named the “poor mans club” it keeps it’s members and there families always poor” meaning that the members at this club spend all there money on alcohol so there’s none left for the welfare of there families. In little writing below the poster it says “Slaves of the saloon” meaning that all these people in the saloon are locked in a never ending circle of working and spending all there money on the evils of alcohol, also the word “slaves” is meant by that the saloon is there master and they can never escape from it’s evil grip on the people and there families.

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In source D it shows a little girl with her little brother standing out side of the saloon, with the little boy holding his sisters hand peeking in hoping to find his dad, but his sister knows that it’s know use as she tried when she was little to find her dad, but she knows from experience that he will just stay in there and spend all his money on drink rather than on them. At the top of the poster it says “Daddy’s in There”- meaning that the big sister is explaining to her little brother where his dad ...

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