E is for Eighteenth Amendment (AtoZ Challenge – Roaring Twenties)

ROARING TWENTIES - Eighteenth Amendment - Prohibition never prohibited the consumption of alcohol. It never even prohibited the purchase of alcohol… though it did prohibit the selling, so that must be the heart of the problem

EProhibition never prohibited the consumption of alcohol. It never even prohibited the purchase of alcohol… though it did prohibit the selling, so that must be the heart of the problem. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States banned the manufacture, sale, transport, import and export of alcoholic beverages. It was ratified on 16th January 1919 and went into effect on 16th January 1920. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment on 5th December 1933, the only amendment ever repealed in the history of the US Constitution.

Wayne Wheeler, the legislative lawyer of the Anti-Saloon League, was the mastermind behind the drafting of the amendment as well as of the consequent Volstead Act which enacted it. If we wanted to say national Prohibition through an amendment to the Constitution was Wheeler’s single-handed achievement, we wouldn’t be too far removed from reality. He devoted his entire life to these goal and there’s no doubt he truly believed this was the right thing to do.


What’s not true is that Prohibition sprung up from nowhere through the vision of this single man. In fact, the idea of temperance had been an undercurrent throughout the entire history of the Unites States. One of the first enactments of this idea was in 1642, when the colony of Maryland passed a law that “punished drunkards by a fine of 100 pounds of tobacco.” In 1838 Massachusetts enacted the first temperance law by prohibiting the sale of spirits in less than 15-gallon quantities, hoping to dissuade buyers by forcing them to buy only large quantities, with a consequent big payment. Didn’t work all that well. In 1846, Main passed the first state prohibition law. It was more or less at this time that the ladies of the women’s crusades started being vocal and proactive about the consumption of alcohol, which helped stirring that idea that eventually brought about Prohibition.



History – 18th and 21st Amendments
Alcohol. Problems and Solutions – The Eighteenth Amendment
Finding Dulcinea – On This Day: Prohibition Takes Effect in America


ROARING TWENTIES AtoZ - Eighteenth Amendment - Prohibition never prohibited the consumption of alcohol. It never even prohibited the purchase of alcohol… though it did prohibit the selling, so that must be the heart of the problem (1920s, Prohibition, bootlegging)

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About the Author

I was born, raised and I still live near Verona (Italy), though I worked for a time in Dublin. I started writing fantasy stories as a kid. Today I’m a bookseller who reads fantasy, history, mythology, anthropology and lots of speculative fiction. Somehow, all of this has found its way into my own dieselpunk stories.

30 Comments on "E is for Eighteenth Amendment (AtoZ Challenge – Roaring Twenties)"

  1. I’ll drink to that!!

    –Mee (The Chinese Quest)
    Mee Magnum recently posted…“D” is for Dumplings #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2ZMy Profile

  2. A fine of 100 pounds of tobacco is interesting. I’m not sure how that would stack up in terms of dollars, but it sounds pretty significant!
    Sue Archer recently posted…Rogue Words from A to Z: Don’t Be Defiant, It’s Definitely LimitingMy Profile

  3. I find that so odd, but hey…

  4. I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes in political history due to the criminal activity it engendered. Good to learn about the background to it, which I wasn’t aware of.
    Nick Wilford recently posted…E is for EnfiladeMy Profile

  5. 15 gallons?! That’s rather a lot of alcohol to have to buy at one time. Of course once you’ve bought it it makes it even easier to drink, which I suspect is where the idea fell down.

    I had no idea prohibition was an actual amendment or that is was the only one ever repealed.
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)
    Tasha recently posted…AtoZChallenge2015 – E is for EwyaMy Profile

    • Temperance movements had a number of very funny ideas about how to stop the consuption of alcohol. The first White Ribboners in the late 1800s would go in group in front of saloons, sank to theri knees and pray so to stop men from entering and convince the saloon keeper to close down. It sounds kind of weird, but still…

  6. Yeah, I remember this one from Boardwalk Empire… 😀 I also had a great-uncle who came to America to start a new life as a tavern owner, right before Prohibition… unlucky… 😀

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
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  7. What I want to know is whether they had to buy that much tobacco or GROW it! Tobacco was pretty expensive back then, as I recall (it being a huge crop of the South), and it’s a pretty hard crop to maintain. It’s be amusing if they had to grow it themselves, or at least rent out property for farmers to grow that much, haha.
    Alex Hurst recently posted…E is for 興My Profile

  8. Prohibition made a lot people determined to have alcohol and many made their own. Kind of like marijuana today. Bones behind the law weren’t bad in itself wanting to modify over indulgence, but if you tell people they can’t have something, they usually find a way to get it, illegally.

    I know my grandfather made a ton of money with alcohol in the latter part of the 20’s and into the 30’s. As he tells it, he had connections to a few who made whiskey in the “old” country and continued the family tradition when they came here. You might call his product, designer alcohol. A lot of alcohol back then wasn’t made well not properly aged and with no controls over the alcohol content. Made some pretty sick.

    Interesting article!

    Sia McKye Over Coffee
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    • Sia, thanks so much for sharing this. Lived life is always the best of stories.

      Well, to be honest, I think the idea bahind Prohibition was unrealistic, even with regard to just alcohol. I’m actually surprised it lasted that long, but then, that’s why prohibitionists wanted an amendment to the Constitution.

  9. Good to highlight was actually happened. It wasn’t the consumption as it’s easy to think, but the manufacture and sale of alcohol that was prohibited. What’s really sad is it forced nice folks to break the law when they started brewing their own beer and making wine. Interesting post!
    Sharon Marie Himsl recently posted…E is for Engine Muffler: Inventions by Women A-ZMy Profile

    • In many articles and books I read it was pointed out that Prohibition lessened people’s respect for the law at large. Not only regular people would break the law making their own wine, but a lot of law enforcers accepted bribes because they didn’t believe in the law they were supposed to enforce.
      Yeah, it was a mess.

  10. Really informative post. Thank you. Need a glass of wine now!

    Happy A to Z!
    Stuart Lennon recently posted…E for ElectionMy Profile

  11. Prohibition has always fascinated me. Thanks for providing some insight!
    Michele at Angels Bark
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  12. That’s one amendment I’m quite glad has been repealed! It caused far more problems than it was supposed to prevent.
    Carrie-Anne recently posted…Mary ElmesMy Profile

  13. What font is this? I am liking it…. anyway, your piece when back in time in history showing America’s long term issues with it…. I went forward. I’ve been to dry towns, there still are many in the US – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dry_communities_by_U.S._state for example!
    Jeri Burns recently posted…Daily Ghost Post – E is for EngkantoMy Profile

  14. If I ever knew how it came to be, I didn’t remember. Thanks for the history refresher!
    Life & Faith in Caneyhead
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  15. Great post! Good to learn more about the Prohibition era, which is not something I know much about.
    Julie recently posted…#AtoZChallenge – E is for EllenMy Profile

  16. Interesting. I’m sure a lot of people were happy that amendment was repealed.
    Lanise Brown recently posted…F is for FinlandMy Profile

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