Differing attitudes towards Prohibition

Those people who supported Prohibition were called “dries”. They believed alcohol did severe damage to family life, morals, health, the economy and law and order.

Those people who disliked Prohibition, i.e. the “wets”, thought the government was interfering too much in the lives of the individual. Drinking was also a popular pastime and a major part of some communities’ cultures.

Its manufacture was an important source of employment. It also helped farmers because it used up some of their surplus grain.

The impact of Prohibition

  1. Prohibition was unpopular and widely ignored. Even President Harding in the White House disregarded it.
  2. It resulted in thousands of illegal drinking places, known as speakeasies, emerging, including at the back of barber shops and hair salons and in basements. Soon, there were more speakeasies than there had been bars before Prohibition. In 1929, New York had 32,000.
  3. It led to illegal bootleggers, moonshiners and rum-runners.
  4. Alcohol-related deaths increased from 98 in 1920 to 760 in 1926. Homemade moonshine often caused death because either it was too strong or it was contaminated. Industrial alcohol, which had poison added to it to discourage people drinking it, was often stolen and resold for drinking, with fatal consequences.
  5. Drinking habits changed. There was a shift from beer to spirits because the latter was more potent and less bulky to conceal.
  6. It led to an increase in corruption. Bribing of police, judges and politicians was common. Even President Harding’s advisors were involved.
  7. Prohibition reduced respect for the law.
  8. There was an increase in violence. Between 1926 and 1927, there were 130 gangland murders in Chicago, many of which were linked to Al Capone.
  9. Organised crime, for example by the Mafia, expanded.
  10. It split the Democratic Party. The “dries” tended to be from the rural south and west, and the “wets” were mostly from urban areas in the north and east.
  11. It boosted spending on other items, such as guns and cars.