The term prohibition comes from “Prohibition of Alcohol” which was a nationwide ban on the sale, possession, transportation, and distribution of alcohol and alcoholic drinks. This prohibition was in effect from January 17th, 1920 to December 5th 1933.
The Volstead Act, the more popular name for the National Prohibition Act, defined what was to be considered intoxicating liquors and described the punishment for various levels of involvement with it. It also regulated manufacture of alcohol for what it considered lawful industries such as the development of fuels and dyes.
Proponents for the Volstead Act grounded themselves in morality and urged Congress towards it based on the need to keep the American populace away from the dangers of alcoholism. To this end, prohibitionists would often refer to the Act as “The Noble Experiment”.
The act was originally vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson but was passed anyway with majority by Congress. The Eighteenth Amendment was ratified on January 16th, 1919.
However noble the intentions were, very little positive change was felt. The manufacture and consumption of alcohol continued but it only went underground. Soon came the rise of the speakeasy (social clubs which participated in drinking) and only the trusted were given their locations and passwords to enter.
Crime was on the rise as a result since now something that most people were doing recreationally was considered criminal. Hidden breweries and distilleries commanded an all-time high price for their clandestine products and their owners were engaged in a constant game of cat-and-mouse with the revenuers, federal agents from the Bureau of Prohibition within the Bureau of Internal Revenue. These revenuers were charged with finding, seizing, and destroying any illicit alcohol and equipment for its production.
When the general public slowly became aware that most of their countrymen were openly ignoring the Prohibition Act and its laws they began to rally for change. Those in Washington D.C. grew to understand that the Eighteenth Amendment only led to increased consumption of alcohol and only served as a platform for organized crime to step in. As if that wasn’t enough, it was well believed that the American public’s respect for the law in general was dwindling because of this prohibition. The Twenty-first Amendment brought about the end of the Prohibition, repealing it under the office of President Franklin Roosevelt.