In 1933, when newly elected President Franklin D Roosevelt lifted the ban on alcohol, he famously said, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” For some states, however, prohibition continued long after that proclamation.
The Volstead Act, also known as the Prohibition Act of 1919, gave U.S. authorities power to enforce the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which banned the sale, manufacture, and transportation of intoxicating beverages. These were defined as any drink containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. The 18th Amendment took effect in 1920 and heralded an American era forever associated with gangsters, bootleggers, and speakeasies.
The prohibition movement evolved from the religion based Temperance movement of the late 19th century, in part as a response to the explosion in the number of saloons around the time of World War I. A number of individual counties and states, particularly in the South, adopted their own local prohibition laws prior to the National ban on alcohol in 1920. Prohibition quickly became unpopular, though, and created a nightmare for law enforcement officials.
In March 1933, shortly after he was elected President, Franklin Roosevelt amended The Volstead Act with the Cullen-Harrison Act, which allowed the manufacture and sale of light wines and 3.2% beer. In December of that year, he ratified the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, ending national prohibition.
As well as being the first and only amendment to repeal a previous amendment to the Constitution, the 21st Amendment enabled individual states to use their own discretion in deciding when to repeal prohibition. So, depending on where you live, Prohibition may not have ended in 1933. Mississippi, the last dry State, did not repeal it until 1966.
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