It’s 5:32 p.m., the precise time that Prohibition ended seventy-five years ago (December 5, 1933). Happy Repeal Day!

Prohibition began with the passage of the National Prohibition Act, known popularly as the Volstead Act after Representative Andrew Volstead of Minnesota, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who sponsored the bill. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the bill on October 28, 1919, but Congress overrode the veto that very day. The 18th Amendment went into effect on January 29, 1920. Volstead lost his bid for re-election in 1922, after serving for 10 terms. Coincidence?

Here’s the text of the Amendment:

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article
the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors
within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from
the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof
for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall
have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the
legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution,
within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States
by the Congress.

Technically, the amendment didn’t ban alcohol, but it made obtaining it legally very difficult.
“Prohibition” is the name given to the amendment and the collection of acts passed under its authority. Prohibition made gangsters rich. According to the National Archives site, there were in New York City in 1925 at least 30,000 speakeasies and perhaps as many as 100,000. The policy became increasingly unpopular after the onset of the Great Depression. It was finally repealed when Utah (situational irony!) became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment.

You can find out more about Prohibition at this site from Ohio State University.


As a follow-up to our post on ex-Presidents later serving in other branches of government, today is also the day that John Quincy Adams took up his seat in the House of Representatives in 1831.