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Bootlegging During Prohibition

    Prohibition was also known as the "Noble Experiment" and was effected by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1919.  The amendment prohibited the "selling, creating, and moving of alcoholic beverages" within the United States (2).   Instead of cutting down on crime, the movement only caused more covert "transactions" to transpire.  Some people broke the law and produced their own alcohol using a dangerous combination of wood alcohol and medical supplies.  This homemade alcohol could cause "blindness, paralysis, or even death" (2).  Foreigners would smuggle liquor into the United States, with a majority of liquor coming over the border from Canada and Mexico.  This contraband liquor was produced in the Bahamas, Cuba, and France.  However, many Americans turned to the black market because it was difficult for a normal person to smuggle alcohol into the country via the ocean.  

    On the black market, Americans could illegally obtain "wine, beer, and moonshine" of a decent quality at a high price (1) provided to them through a network of organized crime.  The most famous "boss" connected with bootlegging was Alphonse "Scarface" Capone.  Capone as well as many of the other "'bosses' ran a number of breweries, wineries, and distilleries."  Grain obtained to produce the alcohol was seized illegally from farmers and was used to produced moonshine that yielded a "corn whiskey of almost one-hundred percent alcohol" (1).  Speakeasies were another way for citizens to illegally obtain credible whiskey.  In New York City in the 1920's there were approximately "32,000 of these [speakeasies] operating" (2).  Most cops ignored the illegal smuggling and the speakeasies because of bribes from the mob.  Capone "virtually controlled the city of Chicago" with bribery and the black market (2).  In 1927 it is estimated that Capone and his gang made "sixty-million dollars by bootlegging" (2).  Capone is most noted for the "Valentine's Day Massacre" in 1929 where he had his biggest competitor, "Bugs" Moran killed by his gang who were dressed as police.  Capone was arrested in 1932 for tax evasion and the Eighteenth Amendment was rescinded a year later.         

"Bootlegging in the Prohibition Era."  (10 April 200): n.  pag.  On-line.  Internet.  27 January 2004. 


"Prohibition Goes into Effect in the United States."  The Roaring Twenties-World News.  (2000): 1 pp.  On-line.  Internet. 25 January 2004.