December 15th, 1933 – America Gets Drunk Again!


On December 15th, 1933, the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution officially became effective, repealing the Eighteenth Amendment that prohibited the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol . . . the Prohibition Era had come to an end.


Back on January 16th, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment (Amendment XVIII) of the United States Constitution was ratified and took effect on January 16th, 1920. The amendment effectively established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States by declaring the production, transport, and sale of alcohol (though not the consumption or private possession) illegal.


Federal Agents destroy barrels of alcohol.

The separate Volstead Act set down methods of enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, and defined which “intoxicating liquors” were prohibited, and which were excluded from prohibition (e.g., for medical and religious purposes). The Amendment was the first to set a time delay before it would take effect following ratification, and the first to set a time limit for its ratification by the states.

For the following 13 years Prohibition was officially in effect, though the ability to enforce it was limited by the Volstead Act and by corrupt and complacent politicians who overlooked illicit manufacturing and smuggling.

After the Eighteenth Amendment’s adoption, there was a significant reduction in alcohol consumption among the general public and particularly among low-income groups. Likewise, there was a general reduction in overall crime, mainly in the types of crimes associated with the effects of alcohol consumption, though there were significant increases in crimes involved in the production and distribution of illegal alcohol to supply the segment of the population that refused to quit alcohol.

Bootleg moonshine was being produce all over the country and gangsters made fortunes.

Bootleg moonshine was being produce all over the country and gangsters made fortunes.

Those who continued to use alcohol tended to turn to organized criminal syndicates, who were able to take advantage of weak enforcement, understaffed police forces, and corrupt public officials to establish powerful smuggling networks. Anti-prohibition groups arose once it became apparent that Prohibition was a catastrophe.

The Twenty-first Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified on December 5th, 1933, but took ten days to go into effect. The amendment remains the only constitutional amendment to be repealed in its entirety; leaving only the power to regulate transportation solely to the federal government.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


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