Tag Archives: alcohol



The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress on December 18, 1917 and ratified on January 16, 1919. A ban on the sale and production of alcoholic beverages went into effect one year later on January 20, 1920.

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.

vote dry

The temperance movement – people against the consumption of alcohol – had been growing in the U.S. since the 1820s pushed by a renewed interest in religion. It became a social justice cause for women, and as they acquired the vote, they were able to increase the political pressure to ban liquor.

The final straw may have been the anti-German sentiment brought about by World War I. Many of the United States’ breweries were owned by German-Americans and were viewed as unAmerican. Trying to deflect the temperance movement from shutting them down, the breweries attacked distilleries and hard liquor, and promoted beer as a healthful drink.

alcohol prescription

Even during Prohibition you could buy and consume alcohol, if you had a doctor’s prescription for it. (Not unlike medical marijuana in some states today.) A prescription would let you buy up to one pint every ten days. A Chicago drugstore (Walgreen’s) with 20 stores in 1920 grew with the help of prescribed alcohol and had over 525 locations by the end of Prohibition. This is why there are liquor sales in drugstores today, even in states that don’t allow hard liquor to be sold in stores other than liquor stores. (The laws vary from state to state on whether beer, wine, or liquor can be sold in grocery or convenience stores.)

It was repealed by the 21st Amendment which was passed on February 20, 1933 and ratified on December 5, 1933.

Section 1.

The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2.

The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3.

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


Gin Plague?

Genever (Jenever) had been brought back to Great Britain by soldiers who had fought with the Dutch in the 80 Years’ War/Dutch War for Independence. It wasn’t quite the same as gin, but would lead to the creation of gin.

When William of Orange (who was originally Dutch) became king of England in 1689, he made it illegal to import French brandy. He did this because he was Protestant and the French king was Catholic and that seemed like enough of a reason at the time. At first people were encouraged to make and drink gin. It was like they were thumbing their noses at France – who needs your brandy anyway?! But people began to like it. Not just like it, but like-like it.

The government began thinking that people were having too much fun with gin so they passed a law that put a tax of 5 shillings a gallon on gin. This didn’t do enough to stop people from drinking, and in typical government thinking, if something’s not working, let’s do more of it! So they passed the Gin Tax Act of 1736. It put a 20 shillings (£1) a gallon tax on liquors and required sellers to pay for an annual license that cost £50.

Side note – Then, as it is today, a government requiring a business to have a license is less about regulating it or keeping the public safe and is mostly about reducing the number of that type of business. Often it ends up being protectionism for the businesses of that kind that already exist. Look at how taxi companies are using government to fight competition from off Uber, Lyft, and SideCar.

The result of that was that reputable gin shops closed and a black market production of it grew, and it grew bigger than the legal gin market had been before Many of the producers and sellers of it were more on the sketchy side and the gin could have been adulterated with something that could make the drinkers ill or even kill them.

After some riots and a few years of continued drunkenness on cheap hooch, the law was repealed. In 1751 a new one was enacted that lowered the fees for big producers and raised them for the sellers. Distillers could not sell gin at retail and it put a minimum volume limit on the stills. Retailers could only get a license if they were in space that rented for at least £10 a year.

Another side note – This is business/government cronyism at its finest. Finest for the big businesses and politicians, that is, not so much for the small shop owner.

The cost of food was going up so there wasn’t as much money left for gin, which was becoming more expensive too. During this time, the importation of tea had been increasing so it was in place to become the new popular drink.