January 29, 1920, the 18th Amendment came into effect for all Americans across
the country. With this act, the Roaring Twenties unofficially began. This
amendment began the Prohibition Era as it outlawed the distribution of and
drinking of alcohol. The Prohibitionists believed that with this
amendment, the amount of drinking in the country would significantly decrease.
However, this amendment backfired profusely during the next decade.
and those against the 18th amendment were divided in every city across the
country. Alcohol was a major part
of the average American’s everyday life, especially those classified as
“wets”. “Wet” was the
nickname for people who were against Prohibition and wished to wet their mouths
with alcohol. This became extremely
apparent once alcohol was made illegal by the 18th amendment as it
pushed them to acquire alcohol by any means, illegal or not.
However, there was a large amount of people across the country supporting
Prohibition. These people included
religious officials, some women groups, and those of the elder generation.
These groups believed that the younger generation was becoming corrupt
with the large amounts of alcohol and the best way to fight it was to keep their
mouths and souls dry of any evil alcohol. Therefore,
the nickname of "dry" was given to Prohibitionists.
the 1920s, law enforcement officials worked to shut down all the saloons and
bars across the country. However, enforcing Prohibition did not work for
two main reasons. The first being
that not enough law enforcement was given to enforce the new amendment properly.
As a result of this, whenever a bar or saloon was shut down by these
officials, an illegal "speakeasy" immediately took its place. Secondly, most law enforcement officers or local policemen
would let these illegal operations run and keep quiet about them, if they were
paid some bribe money. The most
famous known man to hold such illegal operations during this time was Al Capone
of Chicago, Michigan. He ran a
far-reaching, underground alcohol business.
He was constantly fighting for his territory in Chicago, as the St.
Valentine's Day Massacre demonstrates. This
massacre occurred in 1929 when Capone's gunmen killed rival Chicago mobsters
(Gross 1)). Capone sold alcohol to
individual people and owners of speakeasies.
were the most common form of these illegal operations during Prohibition.
They were illegal clubs or bars, in which illegal alcohol was sold.
They acquired their name by the way in which someone would be able to enter.
To enter the speakeasy, you would need to "whisper, or ‘speakeasy,’ as
patrons attempted to cross their illegal thresholds"
("Speakeasies" 1). Once
inside, members could buy alcohol, socialize with other "wets" and
listen to jazz music.
were an important part of the Jazz Age. Jazz
musicians found their most accepting audiences in these speakeasies.
They were extensions of such places as the Cotton Club in Harlem, New
York. Speakeasies gave "wets" a place to drink their
necessary amounts of alcohol and let loose during the 1920s.
Tamara K. "1920s". (24 December 1999). On-line. Internet. 24 January
2004. Available WWW: http://cdcga.org/HTMLs/decades/1920s.htm
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