With a charge led by one Wayne B. Wheeler and Andrew Volstead, Americans met with the Great Experiment of Temperance, or the National Prohibition Act (the 18th Amendment) at midnight on January 17, 1920. Although the bill was vetoed by then president Woodrow Wilson, it was overwhelmingly passed both in House and Senate. This Amendment prohibited the manufacturing, sale and consumption of alcohol. Within minutes of the enactment of Prohibition, the first crime erupted when $100,000 worth of whiskey was stolen from a train in Chicago. Prohibition then gave birth to a new industry gripped by grizzly mobsters and bootleggers. Average citizens were lured by the siren song of the speakeasy.
Prohibition called for trials for anyone charged with an alcohol-related offense, and juries often failed to convict. Under the state of New York’s Mullan-Gage Act, a short-lived local version of the Volstead Act, the first 4,000 arrests led to just six convictions and not one jail sentence. Prohibition was deemed a failure and was dismantled by the Twenty-first Amendment which was ratified on December 5, 1933. Continue reading