In 1920, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution mandated a nationwide ban on alcoholic beverages, making them illegal to produce, import, sell or transport. This ban came about as a result of the efforts of a “temperance” movement organized by anti-alcohol activists nicknamed the "drys." These activists, led by social Progressives and various religious groups, blamed the 19th century problems of family violence and political corruption on the drinking of alcohol, and were concerned to end the problem of alcoholism.
The Volstead Act was passed to enact the requirements of the 18th Amendment. It defined what type of alcoholic beverages were banned (in a nutshell: all of them) and set up rules to enforce it. The federal law did not address private ownership or consumption, but many local law were stricter and prohibited any form of alcohol possession.
While the ban did cut the consumption of alcohol in half during the 1920s, it also drove many producers underground as "bootleggers." Alcohol production and sales continued, but because they were illegal, they generated no tax revenues. Large-scale crime syndicates that were well-funded and heavily armed arose to take advantage of continued demand for a banned substance. Alcohol remained available, but the new laws resulted increased crime and decreased government revenues. It was obvious that the ban did not accomplish what the 18th Amendment intended.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Cullen-Harrison Act
The Great Depression had a huge effect on the alcohol ban, as the lost tax revenues were badly needed by the government. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president in November, 1932, the new congress made it a priority to repeal the anti-alcohol amendment. This, however, would take time. In the interim, Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act in March, 1933. Effective April 7, this act began the process of allowing people to openly buy and drink beer in public again. As an interesting side note, the beloved Clydesdales began their decades of association with Budweiser on this same day as the team pulled a beer wagon through St. Louis to celebrate the change.
The 21st Amendment
It took a minimum of 36 states to pass the 21st Amendment, which would repeal the 18th. It wasn't until December 5, 1933, that the ban actually ended, when Utah signed on to become the 36th state. This was the first time an amendment was passed that nullified another amendment.
Let's Celebrate on April 7!
Rock Harbor Brewing Company is the perfect place to celebrate National Beer Day on April 7 if you are in the Rockland area. With great pub fare and fresh hand crafted beer daily, there's no better place to gather your friends together for a party atmosphere or a relaxing couple of hours.