On December 5, 1933, Americans raised their glasses to celebrate “Repeal Day” as alcohol became legal again after 12 years of Prohibition.
Religious and health activists believed that the Volstead Act — which went into effect on January 16, 1920, and outlawed the production, distribution, and transportation of alcohol — would lead to less violence and greater social order. Instead, banning booze caused homicide rates to rise significantly and ushered in an era of organized crime led by gangsters including Al Capone.
In the rural South and western states, where Prohibition had more of a popular following, the Ku Klux Klan helped enforce the law by shooting bootleggers, burning down roadhouses, and whipping liquor sellers.
The Great Depression was the beginning of the end for Prohibition, and a repeal movement was financed by the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment and its wealthy supporters, including the Du Pont family and the Rockefellers.
Pauline Sabin, a wealthy Republican who founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR), argued that repeal would generate enormous sums of much-needed tax revenue and weaken the base of organized crime.
In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for President on a platform that included the repeal of Prohibition. On December 5th, 1933, Utah, the final state needed for a three quarters majority, ratified the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition and restoring the American right to a celebratory drink. Cheers!
To this day, however, there are still counties and parishes within the United States known as “dry,” where the sale of liquor is prohibited.
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Main photo: Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol [Wikimedia Commons]