Temperance and Prohibitionism in the United States

Prohibition and Temperance played a major role in the growth of America. As a nation, we learned that Prohibition did not benefit society as we hoped it would. We hoped that by extracting alcohol from society would, eliminate public drunkenness and better the family. Instead it lead to a higher crime rate. The smuggling or bootlegging of alcoholic beverages into the country provided great opportunity since, people continued to consume alcoholic beverages even though it was against the law.
Temperance in the United States may be traced to the early 19th century, when the first temperance societies were established in New York (1808), Massachusetts (1813), and Connecticut (1813). The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance was organized in Boston in 1826. Working with evangelical fervor, the society's members had established thousands of local and state auxiliaries. By 1835 temperance organizations across the country had recruited over 1 million members. Following the lead of Maine, several states had passed laws prohibiting intoxicating beverages, by 1855. General interest in temperance declined, however, during the American Civil War. Alcohol was used for medicinal purposes during the war which led to addictions of both, alcohol and other drugs, such as morphine.
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During the decade following the war (1865-75) interest in temperance and
prohibition revived nationwide. This was largely a result of public concern over the tremendous growth of the liquor industry in the 1860s and the involvement of the industry in local and national politics. Prominent in the temperance revival were the Prohibition Party, organized in 1869, and the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), organized in 1874.
“It is impossible to stop liquor trickling through a dotted line”
A Prohibition agent

The Woman's Crusade of 1873-74, culminated in many years of women across the nation taking direct action against the saloon and the liquor traffic. At that time, women in the United States, enjoyed no direct political power. Direct action in the form of prayer vigils, petition campaigns, demonstrations, and hymn-sings were among the few means at their disposal for seeking change. The crusade sought to persuade saloon-

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keepers to destroy their beverages, close their doors, and enter some other line of business.
Although the Prohibition Party never acquired much strength in numbers, its influence was felt by both major U.S. political parties. Necessitating more careful scrutiny of candidates' characters, especially in local elections. Even more influential, however, was the massive evidence of over-indulgence collected and publicized by the several temperance organizations, particularly the WCTU and the Anti-Saloon League of America. By 1917, many railroads had adopted regulations prohibiting the use of intoxicating liquors by employees. A number of other industries followed and adopted similar rules.
When Congress voted to pass the 18th Amendment to the Constitution on January 16, 1920, America became a country where buying, selling, and importing alcohol was illegal and could put you in jail. Called Prohibition because it prohibited alcohol, the Amendment couldn't keep Americans from continuing to consume the substance. The contributing factor to the sudden increase of felonies was the rise of organized crime,
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especially in large cities. Since, liquor was no longer legally available, the public turned to gangsters who readily took on the bootlegging industry and supplied them with liquor. Bootleggers, having very profitable businesses (one bootlegger was worth more than five million dollars), either illegally imported liquor, stole it from government warehouses, or made their own, making it readily available to customers. Although one would think that Prohibition would enhance the difficulty of obtaining alcohol, liquor was actually very easy to acquire. The bootlegging business was so immense that customers could easily obtain alcohol by simply walking down almost any street. Replacing saloons, which were all shut down at the start of prohibition, were illegal speak-easies. These businesses, hidden in basements, office buildings, and anywhere that could be found, admitted only those with membership cards, and had the most modern alarm systems alert owners to a raid and thus, avoid being shut down. “There were twice as many speak-easies in Rochester, New York, as saloons closed by Prohibition” said a Prohibition agent (Thorton 165).
Alcohol used for medicinal purposes, prescribed by a doctor, was technically legal. There were restrictions, such as only one pint was allowed per