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Monday, 8 May 2017



The first temperance law in the colonies was enacted in Virginia in 1623.

The American Temperance Society (later renamed the American Temperance Union) was founded in Boston in 1826 to promote total (but voluntary) abstinence from distilled liquor. Ten years later, The American Temperance Union extends its ban beyond hard liquor to include beer, cider and wine. Support for their movement grew as there was an increasing awareness of such medical consequences of alcoholism as liver disease.

A lithograph by Nathaniel Currier supporting the temperance movement, January 1846

Neal Dow was a successful Quaker businessman and the mayor of Portland, Maine. Dow was devoted to the temperance movement and in 1851 he drafted a law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating drinks, except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes". This was America's first state prohibition law.

By 1855 twelve American states had joined Maine in prohibiting alcoholic beverages. These were known as "dry" states, and states without prohibition laws were "wet."

In the United States, the Prohibition Party was founded in 1869, followed by the Anti-Saloon League in 1895.


Thanks to the influence of anti-alcohol crusades, such as the Anti-Saloon League, the U.S. government voted for the 19th Amendment, a law which prohibited the public sale or the manufacture of alcohol. Prohibition took effect in the US on January 16, 1919 after an amendment to the 18th U.S. Constitution. The law was intended to eliminate the saloon and the drunkard from American society.

Governor James P. Goodrich signs the Indiana Prohibition act, 1917.

Some Americans were so convinced the alcohol caused all crime that on the eve of Prohibition there were several towns in Iowa that put their jails up for sale. They were sure Prohibition was going to kill crime stone dead.

Prohibition did not make it illegal to drink alcohol, just to sell, transport, or produce the drinkable form of it.

In the first two years of Prohibition, demand for sacramental wine (which was legal) increased by 50%.

A consequence of the prohibition law was the creation of an illegal alcohol industry that was controlled by the Mafia. Also manufacturers of soft drinks such as Coca-Cola and root beer saw their sales greatly increase.

Another drink to see its sales rocket was ginger ale. A new drier ginger ale with a softer flavor was developed as a mixer for illegal alcoholic beverages.

A word "moonshine" was used to describe the illegally distilled whiskey, which was made at night in the dark using the moon's light.

A policeman with wrecked automobile and confiscated moonshine, 1922

Numerous speakeasies were set up to provide places for drinkers to buy and drink illegal alcoholic beverages. Gin, in the form of secretly produced "bathtub gin", was frequently drank in the speakeasies.

Sliding bookcases were used in the United States during Prohibition to hide secret rooms or spaces containing liquor.

During the Prohibition, over 1500 Americans died from drinking bad liquor, and many more were killed in bootlegger wars. Despite the risk of raids and arrest by the police or federal agents (around 75,000 arrests per year were made) the speakeasies became very profitable and increasingly elaborate offering food and entertainment alongside their main attraction.

Detroit police inspecting equipment found in a clandestine brewery during the Prohibition era

Another form of criminal activity, "bootlegging", the transportation of liquor, also proved profitable for many. The renowned gangster Al Capone for instance built his criminal empire largely on profits from illegal alcoholic drinks. He earned $105 million a year during the Prohibition era from selling alcohol. Today, this would equal to $1.4 billion a year.

The march composer John Philip Sousa testified before the United States Congress against prohibition on the grounds that it adversely affected the American musical theater because it deprived the drinking song of its traditional social motivation.

13 years, 10 months, 19 days of Prohibition, sometimes referred to as the "noble experiment," came to an end on December 5, 1933. The 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages was repealed at 4:31 p.m. However the states retained the right to restrict or ban the purchase and sale of alcohol and some states continued to enforce prohibition laws for a number of years.

Mississippi, which has been dry for sixty years became the last state to repeal prohibition in 1966.


The earliest records of prohibition of alcohol date to the Xia Dynasty (ca. 2070 BC–ca. 1600 BC) in China. Yu the Great, the first ruler of the Xia Dynasty, prohibited alcohol throughout the kingdom.

In 1907, the Faroe Islands passed a law prohibiting all sale of alcohol, which was in force until 1992. However, very restricted private importation from Denmark was allowed from 1928.

In Britain's first referendum, people in Scotland voted in 1920 against alcohol prohibition. There was a fiercely fought campaign between the nonconformist church, which claimed that drink was the curse of Scotland, and the whisky distillers. However, the citizens of Scottish towns and villages were given the right (local option) to vote out drinking establishments after 1920.

Prohibition still holds today in some Muslim countries. For example, in Saudi Arabia the sale, consumption, importation and brewing of, and trafficking in liquor is strictly against the law.

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