Prohibition in the US

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About
‘Prohibition’ is generally considered the period in the United States, 17 January 1920–5 December 1933, during which, according to the language of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the ‘manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors’ was prohibited throughout the country. The passage of the 18th Amendment crowned a movement going back to the early 19th century.

Beginning with local, voluntary organizations concerned to foster temperance in a hard-drinking country, the movement then undertook to pass restrictive legislation on a local or state basis (Maine went ‘dry’ in 1851). As the movement increased in vigour and confidence, total prohibition of alcohol consumption rather than temperance became the object. By the last quarter of the 19th century, the aim was to secure a complete national prohibition by means of a constitutional amendment. The work of propaganda to this end was in the hands of organized reformers, especially the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (1874) and the Anti-Saloon League (1895); they had the support of many Protestant churches, especially in the south and midwest. By the time the 18th Amendment was passed, 33 of the then 48 states were already dry.