As many of us know, from history, there was a time in United States history when alcohol was illegal. Some will debate if it should still be today, but it is not. Prohibition, as it was called, ran from 1920 to 1933. Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. The Prohibitionists were led by pietistic Protestants. The idea was to heal what they saw as an ill society beset by alcohol-related problems such as alcoholism, family violence and saloon-based political corruption. There are many alcohol related issues that really do fall into these categories, but you can’t make people stop something that they are intent on doing. Drugs are the same, but we have to draw the line somewhere, or we will have a “zombieistic” society.
As Prohibition progressed, many communities introduced alcohol bans and enforcement of these new prohibition laws became a topic of debate. Prohibition supporters were called “Drys.” The “Drys” presented prohibition as a battle for public morals and health. The progressives, along with the Democratic and Republican parties picked up on the movement, and it gained a national grassroots base through the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. After 1900, it was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League. There were those who opposed Prohibition, including the beer industry, who mobilized “Wet” supporters from the wealthy Catholic and German Lutheran communities, but the influence of these groups receded from 1917 following the entry of the United States into the First World War against Germany.
By a succession of state legislatures, the alcohol industry was curtailed, and finally ended nationwide under the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. The Eighteenth Amendment passed “with a 68 percent supermajority in the House of Representatives and 76 percent support in the Senate,” as well as ratification by 46 out of the 48 states we had at the time. That enabled legislation, known as the Volstead Act, which set down the rules for enforcing the federal ban and defined the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited. Unlike most people think, not all alcohol was banned. For example, religious use of wine was permitted. Private ownership and consumption of alcohol were not made illegal under federal law, but local laws were stricter in many areas, with some states banning possession outright.
With prohibition came the criminal element associated with a refusal to comply. Criminal gangs gained control of the beer and liquor supply in many cities. By the late 1920s, a new opposition to Prohibition emerged nationwide. Critics attacked the policy saying it was actually causing more crime, lowering local revenues, and imposing “rural” Protestant religious values on “urban” America. In another bizarre twist of Prohibition in the United States, the United States government literally decided that if people would not comply with the new law, they would make the penalty much stiffer. When the people continued to consume alcohol despite its being banned, law officials got frustrated and decided to try a different kind of deterrent…death. They literally ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States. These were products regularly stolen by bootleggers to use is making moonshine. By the end of Prohibition in 1933, the federal poisoning program is estimated to have killed at least 10,000 people.
Prohibition ended with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment on December 5, 1933, though prohibition continued in some states. To date, this is the only time in American history in which a constitutional amendment was passed for the purpose of repealing another. Looking back on Prohibition, you will find researchers who say that alcohol consumption declined substantially due to Prohibition. They will also say that rates of liver cirrhosis, alcoholic psychosis, and infant mortality declined as well. Prohibition’s effect on rates of crime and violence is rather another story, because of the criminal element that made and sold alcohol in spite of the law. Nevertheless, Prohibition lost supporters every year it was in action, and lowered government tax revenues at a critical time before and during the Great Depression. I guys it all comes down to money in the end.
We have all made mistakes, but thankfully, most of them don’t end up costing people their lives. Nevertheless, there are few mistakes that can measure up to the Battle of Karansebes. In 1788, Austria was at war with Turkey, fighting over control of the Danube River. About 100,000 Austrian troops were camped near Karansebes, which is a village that is located in what is today Romania. Scouts were sent ahead to see if they could locate any Turkish soldiers. The scouts didn’t find any evidence of Turks, but they found gypsies…who as it turns out, had a lot of alcohol to sell, and the scouts bought it.
After returning to camp, with the alcohol, they started drinking, thinking that the next day they would be going into battle, so why not enjoy the evening before with a party, since the best thing to do the night before a big battle is get very, very drunk. As happens with a drunken party, the revelers got very loud and quite obnoxious. The noise attracted the attention of several foot soldiers who wanted to join in. The scouts were not interested in sharing the alcohol, and being very drunk, they weren’t careful in how that told the foot soldiers that they were not welcome.
Once the argument began, it quickly escalated into a fight. The alcohol was confiscated, more men joined in the fight, punches were thrown, and a shot rang out. In the middle of the chaos, someone shouted that the Turks had arrived. Most of the soldiers fled the scene immediately, because they were unprepared for battle. Others got into formation and charged at the supposed enemy. Shots were fired, cavalry was assembled, and the defecting soldiers were killing every man they saw without thinking. Needless to say, the Turkish army had not arrived. They wandered into Karansebes two days later and found 10,000 dead or wounded Austrian soldiers. A little confused by this turn of events, they were nonetheless delighted to take Karansebes without any effort.
If you ever feel like you’ve “made a huge mistake,” just remember…it’s probably not bigger than the Battle of Karansebes. When an army mistakes its own soldiers for the enemy, and mistakenly fights and kills 10,000 men…well, that is a huge mistake!! Some people say that the Battle of Karansebes never happened, because they can’t find any conclusive evidence to show that it happened. Seriously, if I were in charge of the Austrian Army, I might not want anyone to know of this mistake either. Still, those who believe in the battle said that the army could very easily have gotten confused. At the time, the Austrian army was made up of people who spoke German, Hungarian, Polish, and Czechoslovakian, among other languages. This resulted in a lot of confusion and miscommunication as many troops and officers weren’t able to understand each other. I can certainly see where that could bring the kind of confusion that could have cause the army to fight themselves, especially in a drunken state.
Seldom, if ever, do you see a minor political party that is able to obtain national support for their way of doing things, but that did happen in the 1920s. The Prohibition Party (PRO) is a political party in the United States best known for its historic opposition to the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages. It is the oldest existing third party in the US. The party was an integral part of the temperance movement. I suppose it depends on which side you were on, as to how you feel about alcohol, but the reality is that they most likely didn’t have the support of the majority of the American citizens.
Nevertheless, on Saturday, January 7, 1920, the Manchester Guardian reported with a level of mild shock on one of the most extraordinary experiments in modern democratic history. “One minute after midnight tonight,” the story began, “America will become an entirely arid desert as far as alcoholics are concerned, any drinkable containing more than half of 1 per cent alcohol being forbidden.” In fact, the Volstead Act, which prohibited the sale of “intoxicating liquors,” had come into operation at midnight the day before. But the authorities had granted drinkers one last day, one last session at the bar, before the iron shutters of Prohibition came down.
I don’t really know how I feel about the comparison between the prohibition of alcohol, and the war on drugs (specifically Marijuana), but one thing can be said for sure. With the law that made these things illegal, came, by natural progression, the gangs or gangsters, who illegally made a way for those things to be obtained by the people. As to Prohibition, the 20s were filled with bootleggers, gangsters, and illegal purchases of alcohol…hence the Roaring Twenties.
Across the United States, many bars and restaurants marked the demise of the demon drink by handing out free glasses of wine, brandy and whisky. Others saw one last opportunity to make a killing, charging an eye-watering “20 to 30 dollars for a bottle of champagne, or a dollar to two dollars for a drink of whisky”. In some establishments, mournful dirges played while coffins were carried through the crowds of drinkers. In others, the walls were hung with black crepe. And in the most prestigious establishments, the Guardian noted, placards carried the ominous words: “Exit booze. Doors close on Saturday.” It was like an Irish wake for the deceased.
The prohibition of alcohol lasted for almost 14 years, and with it came a violent era in out country’s history. Gangsters like Al Capone, Bugsy Segal, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Johnny Torrio, Arnold Rothstein, Bugs Moran, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, and the mafia sprung into action…refusing to be railroaded. Prohibition’s largely Protestant champions, a large proportion of whom were high-minded, middle-class women. were the do-gooders of the day. Often deeply religious, they saw Prohibition as a kind of social reform, a crusade to clean up the American city and restore the founding virtues of the godly republic. The gangsters, gangs, and the mafia saw it as a declaration of war, and acted accordingly. Stills were built, and bootleggers financed. Before long violence broke out as the runners were caught and the gangsters lost their product. Nevertheless, for 14 long years, Prohibition persisted, until there was finally enough pull in Congress. The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified on December 5, 1933, repealing the 18th Amendment and bringing an end to the era of national prohibition of alcohol in America. At 5:32pm EST, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, achieving the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval. Pennsylvania and Ohio had ratified it earlier in the day.
For as long as babies have been getting teeth, parents have been dealing with cranky babies. People have tried everything from a cold washcloth to alcohol. These days, there are other safe products that can be used, such as baby Tylenol, Motrin, or Ibuprofen, not to mention things like Numbs It. In years gone by, however, things were different. There were no real controls on medicines like there is today, and they didn’t know what ingredients could be harmful, or what might interact with other ingredients to cause serious problems.
Inventors, and sometimes even housewives, came up with remedies that worked to ease the pain, and assumed that they had found the solution. Little did they know what problems they were causing down the road. Remedies like Doctor John’s Elixir, or some other such name, made by people with no training as a doctor, nurse, or even a pharmacist, and no control to make sure they are safe. These formulas were often called “patent medicines” because they were over the counter medicines that were not patented, but were trademarked. One of the most famous was Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. In 1845, druggists Jeremiah Curtis and Benjamin A. Perkins, of Bangor, Maine, partnered to manufacture this remedy. It was said that Mrs Charlotte N Winslow, Curtis’ mother-in-law, created the formula while she was a nurse caring for infants. According to the label, the syrup could take away “teething pain, regulate the bowels, and was the best known remedy for dysentery and diarrhoea, whether arising from teething or other causes.”
It all sounds wonderful…the perfect solution to all the baby’s ills, right? Wrong!! The two main ingredients were morphine and alcohol. Yes, it got rid of the pain, and pain medications cause constipation, so that took care of the other issues, but morphine is addictive at best, and deadly at worst, especially if the patient is given too much…which was a distinct possibility, given the fact that no one knew that morphine was addictive or deadly. Then add to it, alcohol…which shouldn’t be mixed with morphine, and you have a seriously dangerous drug. It’s not known exactly how many children became addicts and how many died, but it was used everywhere until it was denounced as dangerous in 1911 and even then, they still sold it until about 1930. Of course, medicines of today can be found to be dangerous, but much of the time, the medicines are tested for quite a while before they are released, and then most by prescription only…at least at first.