Prohibition began on midnight of January 16, 1920.After decades of crusade by prohibitionists touting the calamities of ‘demon rum’ many people got the idea that most of what was wrong with America was caused by booze.
They saw prohibition as the silver hammer that would decimate all of their alcohol-related woes. Instead, it turned out to be the lodestone that led America into thirteen years of chaos. The Eighteenth Amendment was put into effect to prohibit the manufacture, sale and transportation of all intoxicating liquors. Shortly afterward, the Volstead Act, named for author Andrew J. Volstead, was put into effect. This complimentary law determined intoxicating liquor as anything having an alcohol content of more than 0.
5 percent, omitting alcohol used for medicinal and sacramental purposes; this act set up guidelines for enforcement as well (Altman 15).After the Volstead Act was put into place to determine precise laws and methods of enforcement, the Federal Prohibition Bureau was developed in order to see that the Volstead Act was enforced. Nevertheless, bootleggers and commoners alike frequently violated these laws. Bootleggers smuggled liquor from overseas and Canada, stole it from government warehouses, or simply produced their own. In a chapter of his book The Fabulous Century, Ezra Bowen points out that people hid their liquor in hip flasks, false books, hollow canes, and anything else they could find.Bowen Also notes that there were numerous illegal speakeasies that replaced saloons soon after the start of prohibition. Bowen notes that by 1925, there were thousands of speakeasies in New York City alone.
One serious problem created by the criminal aspect of liquor was that as an illegal product, it had no standards. Deaths from drinking denatured and poisoned alcohol rose from 1,064 in 1920 to 4,154 in 1925. Although it may have worked in theory, prohibition was far easier to proclaim than to enforce.