Boom to Bust Project by Jessie Dohman and KC Baine

The Culture of Prohibition

The Prohibition Era was from 1920-1933. During this time the focus was to get rid of alcohol. To make this happen many laws were created. Some of these laws created were the 18th amendment and the Volstead Act. Although these laws were created many people still drank at secret bars called speakeasies. Many people created their own liquor, which usually was higher in alcoholic content. This also created many more criminals or new kind of criminals called bootleggers.

The 18th amendment

The 18th amendment banned the sale, transportation, importing, and exporting of alcoholic beverages. The amendment was ratified in January and would take effect on January 17, 1920. It took a little over a year for the amendment to get ratified. This amendment caused illegal manufacturing of alcohol to begin. These illegal products were usually much higher in alcoholic content. This amendment was repealed by the 21st amendment in 1933.

The Volstead Act

The Volstead Act was created to enforce the 18th amendment, which prohibited the sale and manufacturing of alcohol. The act took effect in 1920. The act is also called the National Prohibition Act. It was named after Andrew Volstead (the representative from Minnesota), who had come up with the bill. The bill was vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson, but was passed after Congress voted to override the bill.

21st Amendment

The 21st amendment was created to repeal the 18th amendment. The amendment was submitted to Congress on December 6, 1932 by Senator John Blaine and was ratified on December 5, 1933. The amendment has 3 sections. The 1st section repealed the 18th amendment, the 2nd section said that the states had the right to determine the alcohol laws for their own state, and the third stated how to repeal the amendment and the about the ratification.

Wet and Dry Counties

During the prohibition period in the 1920s, there were two main perspectives, the "dry" perspective and the "wet" perspective. Wet and dry referred to the use of alcohol in certain counties. The dry perspective favored the 18th amendment, which prohibited alcohol. They argued that alcohol leads to crimes, violence, and family break-ups. They also associated certain types of alcohol with immigrants, especially the Germans with beer and the Italians with wine. The wet perspective is very different. This was the more rebellious group of people. They saw an increase in illegal behavior, such as bootlegging and speakeasies. They argued the Volstead Act, saying that ridding the economy of the alcohol industry had put many men out of work and money.


Bootlegging was the illegal transport of liquor during prohibition in the 1920s. Bootleggers smuggled illegal alcohol across the borders, both Mexico and Canada. They also got alcohol through the seas. These bootleggers had boats loaded with the goods that were much faster than the Coast Guard cutters. Many of the alcohol cases were labeled as real or forged prescriptions for medicinal alcohol. Bootlegging contributed greatly to the establishment of "organized crimes." Even after prohibition ended in 1933, the bootlegger did not become extinct. In the late 20th century, prohibition still existed in certain U.S. counties, and it was still illegal.


Speakeasies were underground clubs that people went to illegally drink alcohol. They are like clubs today. You needed a password to get into these clubs. The bartenders and gang members created secret names to protect their identity. Some of these secret names were: coffin varnish, white mule, monkey yum, panther sweat, rot gut, and tarantula juice. They also used disguises to get liquor in and out of the clubs.

Al Capone

Al Capone was a famous bootlegger.He was very smart and always had an alibi for the murders and massacres he was accused of. He was born on January 17, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York. He had a son with Mary Mae Coughlin on December 4, 1918. He then married Coughlin on December 31, 1918. His first arrest was a disorderly conduct charge. From 1925-1930 he controlled many speakeasies, bookie joints, gambling house, etc. He was later forced out of Chicago by politicians. He then later on opened a soup kitchen. But he was caught for tax fraud or tax evasion. In May 1932 he was sent to prison in Atlanta. He was sent to Alcatraz where he became very sick. On January 21, 1947 he had a stroke. On January 24 of the same year he got pneumonia, and died the next day on January 25, 1947 he died from cardiac arrest.

Fun Facts:

  • He was found not guilty on 18 out of the 23 accounts.

  • He spent 10 years in federal prison.

  • 1 year in county jail.

  • 6 month court contempt.

  • He had to pay $50,000 in fines.

  • His total prosecution costs were $7,692.29.


Some prohibition supporters poured full kegs of liquor into sewers.