Prohibition History & Timeline

Prohibition History

When most people think of prohibition, they think of the United States in the 1920s. It was a time when alcohol was banned nationwide, and it resulted in a lot of negative consequences. However, prohibition has been around for much longer than that.

Prohibition can be traced back to ancient civilizations. The Greeks forbade drunkenness and had laws against public intoxication. The Romans also had laws prohibiting drunkenness, and they even created a position of “temperance commissioner” to enforce these laws. In the Middle Ages, alcohol was banned in some parts of Europe for religious reasons. For example, Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol because it is considered to be against their religion.

In the United States, prohibition began in the early 1800s with movements like the Temperance movement and the Prohibition Party. These groups believed that alcohol was responsible for many social ills, such as crime and poverty. They also believed that it was morally wrong to consume alcohol. As a result of their efforts, some states began to ban alcohol.

The most famous Prohibition-era was from 1920 to 1933, when the 18th Amendment made it illegal to manufacture, transport, or sell alcohol. This led to a rise in organized crime and an increase in bootlegging and speakeasies. Eventually, the amendment was repealed and alcohol became legal again.

Prohibition is still in effect in some parts of the world. For example, Saudi Arabia is a dry country, meaning that alcohol is banned. There are also dry counties and cities in the United States.

Prohibition Timeline:

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached that drinking alcohol was sinful.
Connecticut Society for the Reformation of Morals was founded.
Massachusetts Society for the Suppression of Intemperance was founded.
The 1820s:
The consumption of alcohol in the U.S. was 7 gallons per capita per year.
 Reverend Lyman Beecher preaches against the evils of alcohol.
Boston area ministers founded the American Temperance Society (ATS).
The American Temperance Society (ATS) had 2,220 local chapters and 170,000 members.
The American Temperance Society had 5,000 local chapters and 1 million members.
American Temperance Union (ATU) was founded, merging existing national temperance organizations.
Massachusetts prohibited the sale of alcohol in amounts less than 15 gallons.
Consumption of alcohol in the U.S. had been lowered to 3 gallons of alcohol per year per capita.
The Washingtonians’ “Society of Reformed Drunkards” formed, widely considered a precursor to Alcoholics Anonymous.
¬†Washington Temperance Society was founded in Baltimore, named for the first U.S. president. Its members were reformed heavy drinkers from the working class who “took the pledge” to abstain from alcohol, and the movement to establish local Washington Temperance Societies was called the Washingtonian movement.
John B. Gough “took the pledge” and began lecturing against drinking, becoming a major orator for the movement.
Under the 1840 local option law, 100 towns had local prohibition laws in Massachusetts.
Washington Society publicized that they had inspired 600,000 abstinence pledges.
Washington Societies had mostly disappeared.
Maine passed statewide prohibition; other states followed what was called “Maine laws.”
November 25: Carrie Nation (or Carry) born in Kentucky, was a prohibition activist, and her method of protest was vandalism.
Consumption of alcohol in the U.S. had been lowered to 2 gallons of alcohol per year per capita.
Maine was the first state to prohibit the manufacture and sale of liquor, though the law was later repealed in 1856.
13 of the 40 states had prohibition laws.
Carrie (or Carry) Amelia Moore married Dr. Charles Gloyd; he died in 1869 of the effects of alcoholism. Her second marriage was in 1874, to David A. Nation, a minister, and attorney.
National Prohibition Party was founded. It is the oldest existing third party in the United States, known for its opposition to the sale and consumption of alcohol.
National Prohibition Party nominated James Black (Pennsylvania) for President; he received 2,100 votes.
December 23: Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) organized.
Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was officially founded at its Cleveland national convention. Annie Wittenmyer was elected president and advocated focusing on the single issue of prohibition.
World’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was founded.
National Prohibition Party nominated Green Clay Smith (Kentucky) for President; he received 6,743 votes.
National Prohibition Party nominated Neal Dow (Maine) for President; he received 9,674 votes.
WCTU membership was 22,800.
National Prohibition Party nominated John P. St. John (Kansas) for President; he received 147,520 votes.
The Supreme Court struck down state prohibition laws if they forbid the sale of alcohol that was transported into the state in its original passage, on the basis of the federal power to regulate interstate commerce. Thus, hotels and clubs could sell an unopened bottle of liquor, even if the state banned alcohol sales.
Frances Willard was elected president of the World’s WCTU.
National Prohibition Party nominated Clinton B. Fisk (New Jersey) for President; he received 249,813 votes.
Carry Nation and her family moved to Kansas, where she began a chapter of the WCTU and began working to enforce the liquor ban in that state.
WCTU membership was 138,377.
National Prohibition Party nominated John Bidwell (California) for President; he received 270,770 votes, the largest any of their candidates ever received.
Anti-Saloon League was founded by Reverend Howard Hyde Russell in Oberlin, Ohio (some people say 1893).
National Prohibition Party nominated Joshua Levering (Maryland) for President; he received 125,072 votes. Charles Bentley of Nebraska was also nominated; he received 19,363 votes.
February 17: Frances Willard died. Lillian M. N. Stevens succeeded her as president of the WCTU, serving until 1914.
Starting in Kiowa, Kansas, Carry Nation began a 10-year crusade of smashing up saloons.
National Prohibition Party nominated John G. Woolley (Illinois) for President; he received 209,004 votes.
WCTU took a position against the playing of golf on Sundays.
WCTU membership was 158,477.
The state constitution of Oklahoma included prohibition.
In Massachusetts, 249 towns and 18 cities banned alcohol.
National Prohibition Party nominated Eugene W. Chapin (Illinois) for President; he received 252,821 votes.
There were more saloons than schools, churches, or libraries in the United States: one per 300 citizens.
Adolphus Busch is the most powerful brewer in the United States.
WCTU membership was 245,299.
Carry Nation, a prohibition activist who destroyed saloon property from 1900-1910, died. She was buried in Missouri, where the local WCTU erected a tombstone with the epitaph “She hath done what she could.”
National Prohibition Party nominated Eugene W. Chapin (Illinois) for President; he received 207,972 votes. Woodrow Wilson won the election.
Congress passed a law overturning the Supreme Court’s 1888 ruling, permitting states to forbid all alcohol, even in containers that had been sold in interstate commerce.
February 3, 1913:
16th Amendment establishing the Federal Income Tax was ratified.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Women’s Christian Temperance Union and Anti-Saloon League march on Washington, DC demanding a Prohibition amendment to the Constitution.
Pre-Prohibition Temperance raid discarding liquor in Topeka, Kansas.
Anna Adams Gordon became the fourth president of the WCTU, serving until 1925.
The Anti-Saloon League proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit the sale of alcohol
Sidney J. Catts elected Florida Governor as a Prohibition Party candidate.
National Prohibition Party nominated J. Frank Hanly (Indiana) for President; he received 221,030 votes.
Senate and House passed resolutions with the language of the 18th Amendment and sent it to the states for ratification.
December 18, 1917:
The Eighteenth Amendment outlaws the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic liquors. The law is sent to the states for ratification.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

October 28, 1919:
The National Prohibition Act, also known as the Volstead Act, is passed- Congress passed the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto, establishing procedures and powers to enforce prohibition under the 18th Amendment.
January 16, 1919: The 18th Amendment is ratified.
Lawyer George Remus moves to Cincinnati to set up a drug company to gain legal access to bonded liquor.
Roy Olmstead becomes “King of the Puget Sound Bootleggers.”
National Prohibition Party nominated Aaron S. Watkins (Ohio) for President; he received 188,685 votes.
The 1920s:
William McCoy pioneers the “rum-running” trade by sailing a schooner loaded with 1500 cases of liquor from Nassau in the Bahamas to Savannah, Georgia.
WCTU membership was 344,892.
Although the 18th Amendment had already been ratified, New Jersey added its ratification vote on March 9, becoming the 48th of 48 states to take a position on the Amendment, and the 46th state to vote for ratification.
Frank Allen Mather signs on with the Treasury Department to scour Nelson County, Kentucky for signs of moonshiners.
The Boston Herald offers $200 to the reader who comes up with a new word for someone who flagrantly ignores the edict and drinks illegal liquor.
National Prohibition Party nominated Herman P. Faris (Missouri) for President, and a woman, Marie C. Brehm (California), for Vice President; they received 54,833 votes.
Ella Alexander Boole became president of the WCTU, serving until 1933.
Al Capone is blamed for the murder of prosecutor, Billy McSwiggin.
National Prohibition Party nominated William F. Varney (New York) for president, narrowly failing to endorse Herbert Hoover instead. Varney received 20,095 votes. Herbert Hoover ran on the party ticket in California and won 14,394 votes from that party line.
The Purple Gang goes to trial for bootlegging and highjacking.
Gang violence is on the rise in nearly every city in the United States.
February 14, 1929: The Valentine’s Day Massacre, when Al Capone has seven of Bugs Moran’s men murdered in Chicago.
Membership in the WCTU was at its peak, 372,355.
National Prohibition Party nominated William D. Upshaw (Georgia) for President; he received 81,916 votes.
Ida Belle Wise Smith became president of the WCTU, serving until 1944.
December 5, 1933: The 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition was ratified.

The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

National Prohibition Party nominated D. Leigh Colvin (New York) for President; he received 37,667 votes.
National Prohibition Party nominated Roger W. Babson (Massachusetts) for President; he received 58,743 votes.
WCTU (Woman’s Christian Temperance Union) membership had fallen to 216,843.