The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified on this day in 1919, outlawing the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption throughout the entire country to begin on the same day in 1920. Supplemented by the Volstead Act - and championed by such pious busybodies as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union as well as forward-thinking organizations* like the LDS Church, neither of which ought to have had any right to decide public policy in the first place - Prohibition would become one of the most massive failures in the history of social engineering...
Not only did it fail to stop people from drinking, Prohibition funneled vast profits to criminal gangs, strengthening organized crime and contributing to untold deaths - deaths either directly attributable to crime when rival gangs and police would engage each other in gun battles on city streets, or else as the result of poisoning from drinking concoctions derived from denatured alcohol and even explosions thanks to poorly-made stills. It also brought about the end of the so-called Progressive Era.
Still, in pop culture terms, Prohibition was a boon; I know my life would have been much less rich had I not watched the literally dozens of gangster movies I have... One such film, 1939's The Roaring Twenties, opens with the indelible image of a happy couple walking with a pram; the next shot reveals that it is filled not with a baby but with dozens of bottle of liquor. The film continues in that vein, making the case cinematically which law enforcement and the man on the street alike knew to be the case - that Prohibition hurt far more than it helped.
America would remain officially dry until December 1933 when, due to the efforts of the newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt** the Twenty-first Amendment to the US Constitution rescinded the Eighteenth, and the Blaine Act undid the Volstead Act, finally effecting the repeal of Prohibition.
**Who'd made it one of the main planks of his election platform.
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