Ratified on January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution made it illegal to produce, import or consume alcoholic beverages within the United States. This was considered a great success for the temperance movement and did indeed lower America's alcohol consumption. Despite the amendment, the demand for these beverages remained and found an outlet through widespread illegal efforts at producing and distributing alcohol. It soon became apparent that because of the general disobedience towards Prohibition it would require a massive amount of money and resources to truly enforce the law. This cartoon compares the enforcement of Prohibition to a very expensive cab fare. In this case an estimated $100,000,000 yearly cost to the taxpayer is shown on the meter. Ratified in 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment and ended Prohibition.
U.S. National Archives. Teaching With Documents: The Volstead Act and Related Prohibition Documents. (Accessed 9/7/2012). Retrieved from: http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/volstead-act/
Prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States was a controversial and much debated issue for the country and its elected officials. In this cartoon the two major political parties are shown in their usual representations: the Democrats as a donkey and the Republicans as an elephant. The cartoon implies that it would be harmful for the Democrats should they ignore the question of Prohibition or take a stance against it. This prospect gives obvious amusement to the Republican elephant in the background.
The widespread disobedience of Prohibition made it difficult for the country's law enforcement to stop the illegal production and distribution of alcohol. The efforts that were taken to enforce this unpopular ban were seen by many to take valuable resources away from other, more vital police activities. Here the cartoonist shows a police officer confiscating illegal alcohol while a citizen is being robbed at gunpoint just around the corner.
The 18th amendment to the United States Constitution, 1920-1933, prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import, or export of alcoholic beverages. It put legal brewers out of business. At first there was public support but within a short time normally law-abiding citizens were being arrested for frequenting bathtub ginworks, basement stills, and speakeasies. The unintended consequence was bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, racketeering, gang warfare, and organized crime.
By 1932, there were groups demanding the end to Prohibition; Americans Against the Prohibition Amendment and the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. It was an election year and the public outcry for repeal was heard.
The Wet and Dry Democrats were deeply divided on the issue of Prohibition. The Southern party members and legislators were fiercely opposed to repealing the 18th amendment. Jacob J. Raskob, Chairman on the Democratic National committee, 1928-1932, was dedicated to unifying the party and ending Prohibition.