On this day in 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act, effectively beginning the Prohibition era. In the decades since the Volstead Act, much has been written, filmed and sung about the era that followed: the “roaring twenties.”
Some argue Prohibition began in 1917 with the passing of the 18th amendment; the Volstead Act put forth the illegality of alcohol consumption into practice. The amendment did not go into effect until January 1920. The act made the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages illegal throughout the United States.
Due to the large religious presence in Congress, the bill became law despite the veto of President Woodrow Wilson. Alcohol and its sale and consumption was viewed as a threat to society. The fallout of the prohibition era would come in the form of the illegal sale and promotion of liquor.
In major cities across America, speakeasies, or illegal nightclubs, became popular between both the social elite and every-day man. Organized crime figures such as Chicago’s Al Capone saw a chance to profit from the wills and desires of a public that wanted their booze.
Over the next decade, the government made attempts to control the booze market, though by the end of the 1920s, police departments around the country generally turned a blind eye to obstruction. By 1933, the act was repealed and booze was once again legal for consumption.