Essay on Prohibition: 19th Century Social Movements and Its Repeal in 1933

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1498 Words
Date:  2023-04-09


Prohibition was a nationwide ban on importation and sale of alcohol between the years 1920 and 1933. Women, progressives, and Protestants spearheaded the drive to initiate and institute prohibition ((Okrent 40). However, prohibition led to the increase in organized crime hence the twenty-first Amendment that was ratified in December 1933 repealed prohibition (Okrent 35). The unique commonality of people and strategies in the 19th Century social movements gave rise to Prohibition. These social movements were broad alliances of individuals who were connected by a shared and common interest aimed at stopping or instigating social change. Chronicle the rise of the Anti-Saloon League and Wayne Wheeler's strategized to create a coalition to get the constitutional amendment passed allowing for national prohibition (Simon & Schuster Books 2010). This article aims at discussing how the Anti-Saloon League and Wayne Wheeler's strategies led to the constitutional amendment allowing for national prohibition. The article also gives possible reasons as to why prohibition did not work and the effects on society as well as its effects on the modern world concerning marijuana and other drugs.

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This is a law in the US that ensures there is no manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages. Its law was enforced from 1920 to 1933 under the eighteenth amendment (Okrent 100). Despite the passing of this law, many Americans felt that the requirements of this legislation were impractical and opted to drink illegally in various ways. Many illegal alcohol producers and distillers cropped up in a move that was by then referred to as bootlegging. Several secret establishments serving as drinking points also became widespread. These were known speakeasies. Both bootlegging and establishment of speakeasies created a breeding ground for organized crime. Many gangs and gang-related crimes such as widespread murders were common during this time.

Anti-Saloon League and Wayne Wheeler's strategies for Prohibition

Wayne Wheeler was the leader during the Anti-Saloon League the period of prohibition. The Anti-Saloon League was the major society that was lobbying for prohibition in the USA in the early 20th century as it was the key element of the Progressive Era and it had strong support from protestant ministers and congregations. The organization was mostly concentrating on legislation hence cared about how the legislators voted and not concerned if they drank or not. The most notable achievement of the Anti-Saloon League was the nationwide prohibition that was locked into the American Constitution through the passage of the 18th Amendment in the year 1920 (Okrent 145). This organization was defeated when prohibition was repealed in 1933 but continued and today it is known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems.

Organizational Structure

The Anti-Saloon League under the leadership of Wayne Wheeler came up with various strategies that were aimed at creating a coalition that would push for a constitutional amendment in favor of prohibition. One of the key strategies was the organizational structure and operating procedures. The league was the first-ever modern pressure group in the USA that was concerned with prohibition. Its strategies were unique such that unlike the other earlier movements, it utilized bureaucratic approaches that were acquired from business to come up with a very strong organization. The founder of the league and the first leader, Howard Hyde Russell had a unique belief that the most successful leadership was selected and not elected. This organizational strategy was able to reinvigorate the temperance movement.

Pressure politics Strategy

The league was involved in pressure politics in the fight for prohibition. The most prominent leader of this organization was Wayne Wheeler who came up with fruitful strategies such as the use of pressure politics in legislative politics.

National Constitutional Amendment

One of the most significant achievements of the League was the constitutional amendment that instituted prohibition. The league used a multitiered approach to attain a dry (prohibition) nation via national legislation as well as congressional hearings that include; the Scientific Temperance Federation. The organization used effective strategies such as the use of emotion based on efficiency, patriotism and anti-German sentiment in the World War I. Therefore, these activists saw themselves as preachers who were fulfilling their religious duties of eliminating liquor in America. The public relations approach that was used by the organization tried to mobilize public opinion in favor of a dry and saloons nation. It was involved in the invention of many of the modern-day techniques of public relations.

Local Work

The organization lobbied at all levels of government for the legislation that was aimed at prohibiting the manufacture and import of alcoholic drinks. Local strategies included ministers launching efforts to close Arizona saloons after the creation of the league chapters. The other strategy was the upholding of local-option elections where the local areas were allowed to decide whether or not to allow saloons. The organization pressured the local police to take licenses from businesses that violated the closing hours or sold alcohol to women and minors.

Failure of the League

The league was unable to cope with the failures of prohibition after the year 1928, especially organized crimes, reduced government revenue and bootlegging hence the league was unable to counter the repeal forces. The other factor was the inability to disassociate with the Ku Klux Klan which brought about negative connotations with the league. The win of President Roosevelt in 1932 on a wet platform was the final blow for the league and prohibition. The passing of a new constitution saw the repeal of the 18th amendment hence the league lost its power (Okrent 25).

How People got around Prohibition

From the inception of Prohibition, individuals found different methods to keep drinking. There were a numerous loopholes that are present to exploit: pharmacists started prescribing whiskey for medicinal purposes, such that most of the pharmacies became the forefront for bootlegging operations; the industry was permitted to use alcohol for the production purposes, however, most of this alcohol was taken for leisure drinking instead; religious congregations were also permitted to purchase alcohol which led to an uptick in the church enrollment; many individuals were able to learn how to make liquor in their homesteads. Criminals then came up with new ways of supplying and distributing to the Americans the products that they wanted, as well: bootleggers trafficked alcohol into the country and also distilled their own; speakeasies multiplied in the back rooms of apparently upstanding establishments, and systematized crime syndicates were invented to coordinate the activities within the black-market alcohol industry. The only persons who were truncated in their capability to drink were the people of the working class who were not able to afford the price hike that followed illegalization.

Effects of Prohibition to the Society

Prohibition had a great impact in America as the 18th amendment was ratified hoping to eliminate alcohol consumption from American life. In this respect, it failed. However, to the contrary, the intent of people on drinking found many loopholes in the liquor laws that were passed which allowed them to slake their thirst. When these loopholes did not work, people then turned into various illegal avenues so that they can be able to do so. Therefore, there was an entire black market that came into being that comprised of distilling operations, speakeasies and bootleggers as a result of prohibition as well as very organized crime syndicates that coordinated chain of operations of manufacturing and distributing alcohol.

Corruption in law enforcement agencies then becomes very widespread since the various criminal organizations used bribery to keep officials in their pockets. Prohibition had an additional negative effect on the economy as it eliminated jobs supplied by the fifth-largest industry in America (Simon & Schuster Books 2010). By the end of the 1920s, prohibition had already lost the luster for numerous individuals who had initially been the most ardent supporters of the policy hence prohibition was done with by the 21st amendment in the year 1933 (Okrent 35).


Prohibition did not work as it had many negative effects such as many illegal alcohol producers and distillers cropped up in a move that was by then referred to as bootlegging. Several secret establishments serving as drinking points also became widespread. These were known speakeasies. Both bootlegging and establishment of speakeasies created a breeding ground for organized crime. Many gangs and gang-related crimes such as widespread murders were common during this time hence reducing the effectiveness and the purpose of prohibition which was aimed at reducing alcohol consumption in America.

Works Cited

Okrent, Daniel. Last call: The rise and fall of prohibition. Simon and Schuster, 2010. Retrieved from:

Simon & Schuster Books, (2010). Author Dan Okrent discusses his new book, Last Call. YouTube. Retrieved from:

Simon & Schuster Books, (2010). Learn about When Alcohol was Illegal in the USA. YouTube. Retrieved from:

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Essay on Prohibition: 19th Century Social Movements and Its Repeal in 1933. (2023, Apr 09). Retrieved from

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