Alcohol goes way back in History. The old Greek and Romans had their parties to honour their Gods of wine Dionysus and Bacchus. Even in the Bible Jesus turns water into wine. Alcohol abuse goes "hand in hand" in history with the consuming of alcohol. In old Greek literature you can read warnings of alcohol abuse.

19th century:

The economic changes during the 19th century lett to great poverty and because of this poverty the working class people reached for the bottle to drown their sorrows. The men got paid in the pub and immediately drank their salary away. This caused a big problem because they didn’t had any money left to support their family. This was a problem throughout the whole country. As a cause many organizations preached for a ban on alcohol.


The first successes on a alcohol-ban were achieved by the temperance movement in the 1850s, including the Maine Law, adopted in 1851. The passage of the law, which prohibited the sale of all alcoholic beverages except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes," quickly spread elsewhere, and by 1855 twelve states had joined Maine in total prohibition. These were "dry" states; states without prohibition laws were "wet." The act was unpopular with many working class people, man in general, breweries and immigrants. Opposition to the law turned violent in Portland, Maine on June 2, 1855 during an incident known as the Maine law riot. The riot was a contributing factor to the law being repealed in 1856. The temperance movement lost strength and was marginalized during the American Civil War (1861–1865).

Prohibition Party:

After the Civil War the Prohibition Party was founded (1869). They wanted a countrywide ban on the consuming of alcohol. It succeeded in getting communities and also many counties in the states to outlaw the production and sale of intoxicating beverages.


The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was founded in 1873 in Hillsboro, Ohio. The purpose of the WCTU was to create a "sober and pure world" by abstinence, purity and evangelical Christianity and the WCTU perceived alcoholism as a cause and consequence of larger social problems rather than as a personal weakness or failing. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union spread rapidly in the nation and one prominent state chapter was the Minnesota Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The Minnesota chapter’s origin is rooted in nation’s anti-saloon crusades of 1873 and 1874 where women all throughout the United States “joined together outside saloons to pray and harass the customers.” In Minnesota there was stiff resistance to this public display and in Anoka, Minnesota, heroic women endured the insults of the saloon-keeper and his wife who poured cold water upon the women from an upper window while they prayed on the sidewalk below. Sometimes beer was thrown on the sidewalk so that they could not kneel there to pray. Although the WCTU was an explicitly religious organization and worked with religious groups in social reform, it protested wine use in religious ceremonies. During an Episcopal convention, it asked the church to stop using wine in its ceremonies and to use unfermented grape juice instead. A WCTU direct resolution explained it’s reasoning: wine contained "the narcotic poison, alcohol, which cannot truly represent the blood of Christ.

They had their first successes, together with the Prohibition Party, in the southern states and played a big role with the passage of the 18th Amendment.

18th Amendment:

 The Eighteenth Amendment (Amendment XVIII) of the United States Constitution effectively established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States by declaring illegal the production, transport and sale of alcohol (though not the consumption or private possession) and was taking effect on January 17, 1920 in all states except Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Vote "Wet" or "Dry":

You had two sides in America, on one side the people that wanted the prohibition ("Dry") and on the other side the people (brewery’s and mostly men) that were against the prohibition ("Wet"). The "Dry" (mostly women, the Prohibition Party and the WCTU) were "pro" prohibition because then the lower working class people wouldn’t suffer of alcoholism and poverty because of alcohol abuse. They also accused the breweries of bribing political people that they would vote against prohibition. The brewery’s were afraid that they would lose income and that the criminal organisations would take over the producing and distribution of alcoholic beverages.


The Prohibition had a negative influence on the American Economics and a positive influence on the criminal organisations. These criminal organisations made sure the moonshine was transported to (rum-running or bootlegging) the speakeasies and made a lot of money doing this. One of the most famous criminal masterminds of that era is Al Capone. Rum-running, or bootlegging, is the illegal business of transporting (smuggling) alcoholic beverages where such transportation is forbidden by law. Smuggling is usually done to circumvent taxation or prohibition laws within a particular jurisdiction.

Some people say NASCAR comes from the high-speed chases between the rum-runners and the police.

Speak Easy!

Speakeasies were more numerous and popular during the Prohibition years than ever before. A speakeasy, also called a "blind pig" or "blind tiger", is an establishment that illegally sells alcoholic beverages. Some of them were operated by people who were part of organized crime. They were "so called because of the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police or neighbors.


Most of the women were happy with the Prohibition. They were happy because of two different reasons. One reason was that the people of the lower classes didn’t use their salary for alcohol, instead they could use it to support their family. The other reason was that women could drink a alongside men for the first time.

End of Prohibition:

Franklin D. Roosevelt saw that the Prohibition didn’t had the effect they hoped for and allowed the production, transport and sale of alcohol. With the adoption of the 21th Amendment on December 5,1933 the prohibition in The United States came to an end.