On January 16, 1920 the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The sale or use of alcohol was now illegal. America was entering the era of prohibition. Frederick Lewis Allen wrote about this era in his book "Only Yesterday" this book was written in 1931 about the 1920s. It was not a very long look back. Mr. Allen spoke of how easily the amendment was passed seemingly without much opposition. He also said it was taken for granted that this law would be followed and easily enforced.It turned out the law was not easily enforced as alcohol became quite prevalent and easily available. Alcohol was being made illegally all over the country as well as being shipped in from Canada and other countries. perhaps the most famous or infamous character from this time was Alphonse Capone more commonly known as simply Al Capone. Al Capone was a gangster from Chicago who made the majority of his money from bootlegging. That is the nickname given for the illegal sale of alcohol. It is estimated that Capone's gang made around 60 million dollars a year most of that profit came from bootlegging. Mr. Allen states that prohibition was a big reason for the rise of organized crime in America.
"To say that prohibition-or if you prefer, the refusal of the public to
abide by Prohibition-caused the rise of the gangs to lawless power would be
altogether too easy an explanation. There were other causes: the
automobile which made escape easy, as the officers of robbed banks had
discovered; the adaptation to peace-time use of a new arsenal of handy and
deadly weapons; the murderous traditions of the Mafia, imported by Sicilian
gangsters; the inclination of a wet community to wink at the by-products of a
trade which provided them with beer and gin; the sheer size and unwieldiness of
the modern metropolitan community, which prevented the focusing of public
opinion upon any depredation which did not immediately concern the average
citizen; and, of course the easy-going political apathy of the times. But
the immediate occasion of the rise of gangs was was undoubtedly
I agree with Mr. Allen in his contention that prohibition was a silly law which was enacted way too easily without much thought. I also feel that a similar situation is occurring now with the war on drugs. The government is spending billions of dollars to fight drugs rather than legalizing them, which when taxed would make the government billions of dollars in profit. Drugs are part of society weather we like it or not, we might as well make some money off of them rather than put all that money in the hands of the drug kingpin's who continue to blaze the path that Al Capone paved for them.