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The Problems with Prohibition: Why Prohibition Was a Failure

This is an article that examines why Prohibition was unsuccessful, the complications/problems that emerged because of Prohibition, and the formation of organized crime and possibly the world’s largest black market.

At first glance, Prohibition was a success, it decreased alcohol consumption, but Prohibition was created to stop social problems.  What Prohibition, the “Noble” experiment, did was create more social problems.  Before Prohibition was repealed in 1933, organized crime, bootlegging, illegal speakeasies, and many other problems had been created.  No matter how hard the government tried, they could not stop all of these problems.

Organized crime was first introduced during the Prohibition Era.  It started when six masked robbers stole 100,000 dollars worth of various beers, wines, and gins from a boxcar.  After this event occurred, the gangsters realized that alcohol had become a profitable commodity.

The gangsters planned and combined their efforts in the production, sale, and transportation of the now illegal drug.  By organizing their illegal activities, they increased their effectiveness, increased their profits, and made it much harder for the authorities to stop them.  This is why it was called organized crime.  After the gangsters manufactured, smuggled, and distributed the alcohol, it usually ended up in local speakeasies.  A speakeasy was a “bar” that sold alcohol covertly; usually it was set up behind a legitimate business front.  The gangsters and other enterprising individuals set up illegal speakeasies hidden from the sight of passersby, and the only way to gain access to these speakeasies was to “speak easy,” or say the password.

Interestingly enough, the rich and the poor sat side by side for the first time in these speakeasies.  In these speakeasies, the people were crowded together, smoke from cigarettes lingered in the air, the furniture was usually wooden and taken from shutdown bars and saloons, and people would drink the alcohol from teacups in case of a police raid.  Making alcohol for these speakeasies was done by the moonshiners.

A moonshiner was a person that made illegal alcohol in his or her home.  Moonshiners made moonshine, or alcohol that was fermented in the woods, where the moonshiners would check on the alcohol every full moon.  Other moonshiners made bathtub gin, where the alcohol fermented in their bathtub.  Some moonshiners made “sink-wine,” which was wine fermented in a bathroom sink.  After a moonshiner had made his or her alcohol, they sold it to bootleggers, who transported it to their own speakeasies, or resold it other speakeasy owners.

One of the most famous bootleggers was Bill Mcoy.  He bought alcohol from the Bahamas, then in his schooner, sailed until he was three miles away from New York City, in International waters.  He then sold alcohol to other bootleggers that arrived by speedboat.  This area was dubbed “Rum Row” for because in addition to beer and whiskey, Bill often sold large amounts of rum.  Another infamous criminal of the Prohibition Era was Al Capone.

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