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Prohibition in America

Arrow Image My year 10 history essay on prohibition. Heavily cut down ;)( about 200 words) Dont copy it becaus eyou'll get caught and that wouldn't be too nice.



Year 10 History coursework: Prohibition

Question 1: Why was Prohibition introduced in the USA in 1919?
Prohibition was the 18th amendment to the US constitution. Prohibition meant that the sale, transportation and manufacture of alcohol was illegal.
Prohibition was introduced for several reasons: The influence big business, the Temperance movement and their pressure groups, World War One and politicians. All these reasons were linked; the temperance movement claimed that crime, disease and poverty would be reduced with the ban of alcohol. This attracted support from businessmen who felt that if Prohibition was put in place their workers would be healthier and therefore produce better quality work. The public also wanted a healthier, crime free life, this in turn affected politicians “opinions” and vice versa.
The temperance movement (Women’s Christian Temperance movement and the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) were the biggest pressure groups. These teetotal supporters were known as the Dries.) gained support rapidly. They used several tactics to achieve this, they claimed that alcohol was the cause of crime, poverty and most disease. Propaganda was used to alter people’s view of alcohol, they used marching bands and published anti-alcohol leaflets. Between 1909 and 1923 the Anti-Saloon League published over one hundred million leaflets with titles such as ‘“The Poor Man’s Club” The most expensive in the world to belong to’. Illustrations of the families of drinkers suffering were used, this type of emotive propaganda was designed to make alcohol seem evil. The Temperance movement also published illustrations linking alcohol to disease and crime. In 1820 one such leaflet showed barrels of alcohol being taken away from a place resembling a funeral parlour with labels reading ‘Murder’, ‘Collapse’ and ‘Cholera’. This made drinking seem even more evil. This sort of massive campaign was only possible as a result of the financial support of big business who believed their quality of personnel would improve for example Edwin Theiss who said “Until booze is banished we can never have a really efficient workman” “It’s purely a question of dollars and cents”. Edwin Thiess was a factory owner who was clearly only interested in the money to be gained from a teetotal work force, so like many other businessmen he provided financial backing to the Temperance movement.
World War One contributed to the establishment of Prohibition. It was used by the ASL to construct one of the strongest reasons for Temperance, they exploited the fact that the major alcohol brewers were of German decent. The hatred of the Germans that had built up during the conflict was an easy tool for the ‘dries’, they linked alcohol to the ‘Evil’ German government, and linked German aggression to alcohol, and used this idea to depicted drinking as an anti-American and pro-German activity. A pamphlet published by the ASL read “(The American’s patriotic duty) is to abolish the un-American, pro-German, crime-producing, food-wasting, youth-corrupting, home-wreaking, treasonable liquor traffic” direct attacks on alcohol were often used by the Temperance movement. This is why Prohibition was sometimes described as by G.K. Chesterton as an act of “Feverish self-sacrifice and patriotism”. This very passionate patriotism was a major factor in the passing of Prohibition. Many politicians at the time used Prohibition to their advantage by including it in their campaigns, knowing that it would result in them gaining the support of the public, every politician knew if they were seen to be a ‘wet’ they would not be elected.
Prohibition was instated because of the pressure applied to the government by groups which supported it. The financial backing it received was also vital in that it gave it the force it required to carry out its campaigns to gain the support of the public and politicians.



Question 2: in what ways did Prohibition change US society in the 1920s?

Prohibition, the banning of the production, sale and transportation of alcohol was introduced in the United States of America on January 16th 1920 as the 18th amendment to the American constitution. It lasted until the December 5th 1933, when it was abolished by the Democrat President Roosevelt. Although Prohibition was designed to lower crime, disease and other social problems within America, its actual result was an increase.
A problem Prohibition was supposed to solve was crime, in actual fact crime increased dramatically. In 1925 in Detroit there were 15,000 speakeasies (illegal bars), four years later there were more than 32,000 in New York. The illegal production and sale of alcohol (‘bootlegging’) made big profits for gangsters, around $2 billion a year. Al Capone made $60 million, as it was such a profitable business gangs fought for the markets leading to killings such as the St Valentines day massacre. Many ordinary people also made alcohol at home in stills called ‘Moonshine’.
As a result of people breaking the law Prohibition Agents were introduced. They were largely unsuccessful: there were many agents but not enough to stop crime. The Agents were also easily bribed this was because they received such a low pay, some only received $200. However not all the agents were unsuccessful for instance ‘Two Guns’ Hart (Al Capone’s brother) was so successful that he was removed from his position by corrupt higher authorities.
The above was just one sample of corruption, the rise in organized crime caused a rise in bribery and other forms of corruption. George Remus for example was known as the ‘King of bootleggers’
The affect of Prohibition on disease was also negative. Moonshine which was often of very poor quality and once described as a ‘diabetic horses urine’, the death rate from alcoholic poisoning rose from 98 in 1920 to 760per year in 1926, this was due to the growing demand for alcohol as well as the shockingly low quality of the moonshine. Another reason for this was because people began to steal industrial alcohol, which had been poisoned by the government, drinking this alcohol caused obvious health problems.
Furthermore, the fact that drinking became illegal meant people began to do it and those who already did it, did it more. This may have been due to the rush they may have felt breaking the law. And as one man explained “I got used to being disreputable” this shows how it became natural for people to break the law, and also shows a general disregard for the law developed amongst people. This was also highlighted by Elmer Gertz, a Chicago lawyer in the 1920’s he said “Prohibition taught America disregard for the law. It taught many people that the pursuit of crime created very profitable careers” people became accustomed to breaking the law this shows why crime increased during this period.
Poverty, corruption and other social problems Prohibition was supposed to solve were also badly affected. Social problems and violence increased as organized crime began to develop for instance the St Valentines day massacre in which seven of the Buggs Moroin gang were slaughtered with machine guns. Gangs such as Alfonse Capone’s ran ‘protection’ in which people paid money not to be killed or beaten up, this caused poverty and other social problems such as corruption. George Remus ‘The king of Bootlegging’ paid thousands of dollars to top government officials to prevent prosecution. This corruption went right from the police and Prohibition agents through to the presidential advisors. All the money criminals were making meant they could afford to pay massive bribes. Capone was even rumoured to have his own mayor in office in Chicago.

Prohibition was by far a cure worse than the disease. The problems caused by Prohibition ran deep into the American government and altered society forever, the gangs may have started in the 1920’s but some of these gangs have lasted into the present and are now involved in other forms of crime .

Question 3: Describe the main aspects of the economic boom in the 1920’s

The 1920’s saw a massive growth in the American economy known as the boom. There was a massive rise in the gross national product (GNP) of the USA. Company profits also increased which lead to increases in the workers wages. The economic boom could be seen in the increase in luxuries in American households compared to households in the rest of the world such as Europe.

Mass production, the process of producing large quantities of a product in a short space of time, was a major contributor to the boom. It was pioneered by Henry Fords use of assembly line, were parts are added to a product in turn with each worker having a single job. This led to fast and cheap production. With factories taking ten seconds to turn out a car by the 1920’s. This made luxuries more affordable with a Frenchman saying “European luxuries are often necessities in the US”.
As the number of cars increased so did the need for roads this led to higher employment in road building. Materials for making cars such as plastic, glass and steel became more demanded and this lead to further economic growth. Mass production spread to other industries as new techniques were discovered.
These changes affected society in numerous ways. As prices fell and wages rose ordinary people could afford newly made time saving appliances such as cars and fridges. This meant that people had more time to shop and for entertainment so the economy grew.
A major source of entertainment was films, with the Hollywood industry quickly growing to sell a hundred million tickets a week by 1929. The films also created stars such as Charlie Chaplin who become very famous. Sports also grew in popularity with 65,000 people watching some matches and stars such as Babe Ruth also becoming famous. Radio was also a major source of entertainment with 9 million households having a set by 1929. This also led to a big industry and effected society by introducing the mainly black music of the speakeasies such as jazz to the general public. The new fast paced music styles reflected the liberation caused by the ease of movement due to the car. The adverts in the films and the radio were also important as they encouraged people to buy goods from new industries helping industries like the electrical appliance industry grow. These appliances such as vacuum cleaners also saved time and gave people more time to spend at leisure. Most people spent their newly acquired leisure time at the ‘Pictures’ with cinema ticket sales reaching almost 100 million per week in 1930 a rise from 40 million in 1920, it was an obviously booming industry.
As the boom progressed the people became more confident and bought into new industries. This new confidence was demonstrated in building skyscrapers which demonstrated power. Credits too became more popular so people could buy even more expensive things like the car, with already reduced prices from mass production combined with the fact that they did not need to pay for it straight off people began to buy any thing and everything. Catalogues also became popular and made buying products even easier.
The 1920’s also saw important changes in the role of women. Since the time of the war more women had been in work and this led to some women challenging their traditional roles, these women were known as “Flappers”.
The economic boom effected society in many ways it enabled them to buy luxuries many of which liberated them their traditional roles. The economic boom was self generating in that it provided support for its self to grow.

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