One hundred years ago today, on the 16th of January 1919, Prohibition (the 18th Amendment) was ratified; outlawing the sale, production, and transport of alcohol. The 18th Amendment, which would come into effect on the 17th of January 1920, was a culmination of efforts from the Anti-Saloon League (which was founded in Oberlin, Ohio) and their supporters, such as doctors, pastors and priests, Klansmen, Bolsheviks, and others.
This prohibition, once enacted, gave rise to crime due to the amount of money that could be made in bootleg liquor. One of the first to capitalize on prohibition was a New York-based kingpin of Jewish-American Organized Crime named Arnold Rothstein. Rothstein is also noteworthy because it is believed that he had a hand, at least partially, in the fixing of the 1919 World Series, which was a huge deal at the time.
Prohibition, and the crime that came with it, had a huge impact on the culture and society of the decade. Many books, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tales of the Jazz Age and The Great Gatsby, incorporate not only the ‘lack’ of alcohol (I say ‘lack’ because Prohibition didn’t actually work) but also the fortune that could be gained through bootlegging and the accompanying organized crime (see, for instance, where Gatsby got his fortune from). Furthermore, Prohibition has become synonymous with the Roaring ‘Twenties, and 1920s/Speak-easy parties are one of the most popular even unto today.