Drinking, Life, and Money: ccording to one New Yorker. In the aftermath of World War I, many
Americans were tired of making sacrifices; they wanted to enjoy life.
did not consider drinking a sin but a natural
Most immigrant groups
part of socializing, and they resented government meddling.
Ironically, prohibition’s fate
ailed to budget enough men and money to entorce the law. The
olstead Act established a Prohibition Bureau in the Treasury Depart-
ent in 1919, but the agency was underfunded. The job of enforcement
involved patrolling 18,700 miles of coastline as well as inland
borders, tracking down illegal stills (equipment for distilling
liquor), monitoring highways for truckloads of illegal alcohol,
and overseeing all the industries that legally used alcohol
to be sure none was siphoned off for illegal purposes.
The task fell to just 1,550 poorly paid federal
and local police–clearly an impossible job.
sealed by the
SPEAKEASIES AND BOOTLEGGERS Drinkers
went underground, flocking to hidden saloons
and nightclubs known as speakeasies (so
called because when inside, one spoke qui-
etly-“easily”-to avoid detection), where
liquor was sold illegally. Speakeasies could be
found everywhere-in penthouses, cellars, office
buildings, rooming houses, tenements, hardware
stores, and tearooms. To be admitted to a speakeasy,
had to use a password, such as “Joe sent me
present a special card. Inside, one would hnd a mix of
fashionable middle-class and upper-middle-class men
A young woman demonstrates one of the means used to conceal
alcohol-hiding it in containers strapped to one’s legs.
Joe selling illegal alcohol