December 9th, 2008 by Sarah Laleman Ward
December 5, 2008, marks the 75th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition and made the sale and consumption of alcohol no longer illegal in the United States.
As history tells us, Prohibition did nothing but increase alcohol consumption and drive it underground.
By the end of the 1920s, it had become apparent to many Americans that Prohibition had failed. As the many rum runners demonstrated, Prohibition had not succeeded in stopping the manufacture, sale, or transportation of liquor. The law simply proved ineffective against high demand.
Source: “Prohibition Rum Runner ” in Crime and Punishment: Essential Primary Sources. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2006. p71-72, accessed via Gale Virtual Reference Library. (on-campus link)
In New York and other cities across the country, Prohibition “encouraged the growth of new drinking establishments, such as speakeasies, that catered to the middle and upper classes.” At the speakeasies, as we have all seen in 1920s mobster movies, you had to know the password, be “somebody” or know someone on the inside in order to get in. A few of the more well-known places that still exist are The Green Mill in Chicago, and Chumley’s and ‘21‘ here in New York. Sadly, the building at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village that houses Chumley’s has fallen into disrepair and this old watering hole has been closed for over a year. ’21,’ or Jack & Charlie’s ’21’ as it was formerly known, is still in business at 21 W. 52nd Street, complete with the collection of jockeys and the secret wine cellar. Read more about the history of ’21’ here.
How will you celebrate Repeal Day? Are there any current examples of Prohibition in the United States that you can think of? Find out more about the history and effects of Prohibition at the libraries! The databases I used to write this post are: Gale Virtual Reference Library, The New York Times Historical, Academic Search Premier, and ARTstor. They can all be found here.
If books are more your speed, here are a few titles to get you started: