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A bottled history of Prohibition

By Lia Sanders on 3/12/14 3:00 PM

Friday is the 81st anniversary of the end of Prohibition in America. As victories for freedom go, it may not quite rank alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall but it is still worth a toast. Here is our cheat’s guide to the day.

In January 1919 the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution passed, banning the sale, manufacture, transportation and importation of alcohol. However, it was not illegal to drink it. This led to farsighted citizens stocking up before the ban came into effect.

Other ways of getting round the ban involved getting your doctor to prescribe it to you for medicinal reasons or attending a speakeasy where they would sell boot-legged alcohol, usually whiskey from Canada or rum from the Caribbean.

During this time, the criminal underworld thrived due to their monopoly on alcohol. The most famous mob boss is Al Capone who orchestrated the St Valentine’s Day Massacre of a rival gang. The police were unable to find sufficient evidence of his involvement, however, so he was arrested for failing to pay income tax.

To get in the mood for part 2 of Prohibition tomorrow (when we’ll be suggesting how to bring speakeasy style to your own liquor drinking), watch this delightfully retro news footage about Prohibition’s repeal.