The Prohibition Era in the United States is one of the most interesting moments of American history.
States ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in January 1919, banning the transportation, manufacturing, and sales of intoxicating liquor. The law went into effect in 1920, and it would stay in place for the next 13 years.
Bootlegging and speakeasies made it challenging for police to enforce the new laws. Increases in liquor’s illegal production led to rises in gang violence, money laundering, and criminal enterprises.
The 21st Amendment would reverse the idea.
Several notable figures came out of the Prohibition Era. Perhaps you recognize many of these names?
Born in Brooklyn, he would rise to lead the organized crime syndicate operating in Chicago during the Prohibition Era. He was tried and convicted for tax evasion in 1931.
Ness was part of the “untouchables.” He led a group of federal enforcement officers that tracked liquor movements and manufacturing. Those officials raided breweries in Chicago frequently. Ness would also move on to tackle organized crime in Cleveland.
This Cincinnati bootlegger read the laws carefully, exploiting every legal loophole he could find. His empire got build by buying pharmacies and distilleries to make liquor for medical needs.
McCoy ran rum from the Bahamas to the East Coast during the Prohibition Era. The reason why we say the phrase, “That’s the Real McCoy,” is because of his efforts to always sell an unadulterated product.
Before the Prohibition Era, Olmstead worked as a police officer in Seattle. After the 18th Amendment’s passage, he became one of the biggest and best bootleggers in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike most of the other people engaged in this enterprise, Olmstead never carried guns or engaged in other vices. He just kept bringing alcohol back from Canada.
Who are some of your favorite characters from the Prohibition Era?