The Story of the Eighteenth and Prohibition 100 Years Later
It's late at night, and a young man lies low in a boat. He has traveled from the Bahamas to the Hudson River just outside of New York City. Federal agents could be lurking the water nearby, so he's careful not to make much noise. Is this man a dangerous criminal? Well, it depends on your perspective; he's a 1920s teen who is supplying thirsty Americans with currently illegal alcohol produced overseas.
After a constitutional amendment was passed in 1919, the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. became illegal. But that didn't stop anyone who wanted a beer or a shot of whiskey. Vast criminal networks soon developed across the country, from stills in remote towns in Pennsylvania to streets full of speakeasies underground bars in Chicago. Some people just wanted to enjoy a glass of wine or two with friends.
Yet as the lawbreaking became more extensive and federal agents couldn't keep up, the money involved increased. Violent mobsters saw Prohibition as a way to make a killing on illegal alcohol, and things turned dark fast. For the many adults who had supported Prohibition, there was a lot of handwringing. Concerned women and men who had watched men stumble out of seedy saloons in their hometowns, abuse their wives, and abandon their children had believed that prohibiting the sale of alcohol was the answer to many of America's social ills. But, alarmed by the rampant lawbreaking, Americans including those who had once supported Prohibition soon rallied to end it.
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Prohibition by traveling back into this unique era of American history.