The temperance movement — an effort to label alcohol as destructive to families and society in general — began before the turn of the century. At the start of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson temporarily banned the sale of alcoholic products to preserve grain for wartime use. But Congress went further, establishing what became known as “Prohibition” through the 18th Amendment, which was ratified by the states in 1919. Alcohol was illegal throughout the land in the 1920s but enforcement was a losing battle.
Take something away and it’s even more desirable — and that’s what happened with alcohol. “Bootlegging” (illegally making and selling alcoholic products) and “speakeasies” (clubs that illegally sold alcohol, often identified with green doors) became widespread. Organized crime spiked when gangsters got involved in selling and delivering alcoholic beverages as part of the highly profitable underground economy. When Prohibition ended in 1933, drinking once again became a legal part of Americans’ social lives — and it remains so today.