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On This Day… Prohibition Began!

Written by: George Chittenden : 30 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 17th January, back in 1920, when America experienced its first day of prohibition! So, what was prohibition and why did it come into force? It was an attempt to outlaw the production and consumption of alcohol in the United States, by banning alcohol from being made, transported or sold.

The first state prohibition law was in 1846 in Maine, but it wasn’t until 1869 when the Prohibition Party was established. During the 1880's and 1890's the movement gained support, as social reformers saw alcohol as the cause of poverty and the break-up of families. Many US states followed Maine’s example and by 1916, twenty-six of the then forty-eight states had passed prohibition laws. It wasn’t until the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution in 1919 which allowed national prohibition to be possible.

Prohibition lasted for thirteen years. Overall, prohibition was a failure having created a huge loss in jobs, a loss of $11 billion in tax revenues, and a cost $300 million to enforce. Of course, exceptions do exist, such as Al Capone and his $60 million fortune, most of which was earned in the illegal liquor trade.

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