General term for prohibition or prevention, which can refer to many things. In most cases, however, stimulants such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco or the like were or are affected. As a rule, this is understood to mean a ban (in various forms) on the production, import, export, transport, purchase, possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages for social, religious, moral, ethical or health reasons. In the past, such a temporary ban was also repeatedly valid for individual luxury foods or beverages such as absinthe. The longest existing prohibition is the strict Islamic prohibition of alcohol, which is religiously based in the Koran. But also in many other countries and cultures there have been similar prohibitions again and again. This was an enormous intrusion into the habits of the countries concerned, because drinking alcohol has been an elementary part of the drinking culture since the earliest days of human history.
In Canada, there was a prohibition from 1916 to 1927, but wine was excluded from this prohibition as an exception. There were other prohibitions of alcohol, for example, from 1919 to 1933 in Finland and from 1900 to 1933 in Ireland. Prohibitive measures with strong restrictions on viticulture also existed in Chile from 1938 to the 1970s. In Sweden today, the sale of alcohol is still prohibitively regulated and subject to high taxes. In New Zealand, prohibition is still subject to referendum. The restrictions on smoking that were imposed in the USA from the 1990s onwards, and later in Europe as well, can also be described as prohibitive measures to a certain extent.
The most significant prohibition of alcohol, which was valid for 13 years in the USA from 1920 to 1933, was passed in 1919 by the US Congress as the 18th amendment to the Constitution against a two-time unsuccessful veto by President Thomas W. Wilson (1856-1924). It was also called "The Noble Experiment". The National Prohibition Act (also called the Volstead Act after the Senator) defined that "intoxicating beverage" meant any beverage containing more than 0.5% alcohol: The act defined intoxicating liquor as any beverage containing more than 0.5% alcohol by volume and superseded all existing prohibition laws in effect in states that had such legislation. This meant that beer (even light beer) was affected in addition to schnapps and wine. Of the many thousands of breweries before prohibition, only the large ones survived after 1933, which had kept their heads above water with the so-called near beer.
Further aggravations of the alcohol prohibition then took place in the years 1921 and 1929, but the prohibition in the USA had a long history, because already in the year 1851 alcohol was prohibited in the federal state Maine. For the time being, many of the US states only fought against excessive consumption or alcohol abuse. Especially the two temperance organizations "Women's Christian Temperance Union" (founded 1874) and "Anti-Saloon League" (founded 1895) fought first for a restricted and then more and more for a rigorous alcohol ban. As a counter-movement, the "Anti-Temperance Societies" were formed with special supporters among the Baptists. These continued to regard alcohol as a gift of God.
Especially the "Anti-Saloon League" was very professionally run by the lawyer Wayne B. Wheeler (1869-1927), who was very good at raising funds and financiers. The multiple millionaire and owner of the "Standard Oil Company" John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) donated, impressed by a speech of Wheeler, 5,000 dollars. Through clever lobbying, the ASL achieved that practically no politician could afford not to commit to the goals of the League (whether they were convinced of this is another question). The success was that before prohibition came into force on 16 January 1920, alcohol had already been banned by law in 33 of the then 48 US states, albeit in varying degrees. However, the prohibition was not actually ratified by many states until the First World War, as this was dependent on referendums (so-called "local options"). Taking into account the complicated legal situation in the individual states, more than half of the Americans were against an alcohol prohibition when war broke out in 1914.
The First World War supported the activities of alcohol opponents when the USA entered the war on the side of the Entente against Germany and Austria-Hungary. This was because most breweries in the USA were run by German or Austrian emigrants (for example Anheuser-Busch). Viticulture was mainly a domain of Italians and whisky was drunk in saloons by workers of Irish and Polish origin. These were all mostly Catholic, while the Anglo-Saxon power elite in the USA was traditionally Protestant. The anti-alcohol campaign was mainly the work of Protestant fundamentalists. They called especially the German brewery owners "traitors" or cause of the alcohol evil and unleashed a nationalist campaign. The automobile industrialist Henry Ford I (1863-1947) also supported the efforts, perhaps less on moral grounds, but because he did not want to tolerate a reduction in the work performance of his workers through alcohol abuse. Any Ford worker who smelled only of beer was immediately dismissed without mercy. The strict ban on alcohol was regularly and strictly monitored by the company's own security personnel, including unexpectedly in the workers' apartments.
Finally, a ban on the sale, production, import and transport of alcoholic beverages was introduced. In this respect even the constitution was changed by the 18th Amendment. It was ratified on 16 January 1919 and came into force on 16 January 1920 (and then repealed in 1933 by the 21st Amendment). Incidentally, the introduction of prohibition against alcohol ran parallel to the introduction of the right to vote for women. Only the sale was considered a criminal offence, not mere consumption. The demand for alcohol did not end with the ban, quite the contrary. As a result, the illegal business of production and distribution by criminal, well-organised elements developed in an excessive manner. Ultimately, this led to a frightening increase in crime. So the shot backfired, because instead of eradicating abuse, the "noble experiment" described by its supporters led to an uncontrolled escalation of the black market.
But prohibition didn't stop anyone from drinking. It merely replaced good beer and good wine with bad, even harmful, schnapps. There were numerous cases of poisoning by methanol (wood spirit) and fusel alcohol, because schnapps was produced under often adventurous conditions, mostly in the dark of night; therefore the product was aptly called "moonlight whisky" (the picture on the left shows such a "black distillery"). Legally regulated exceptions were religious ceremonies. This was exploited to the full, because the demand for mass wine suddenly increased immensely and priests became wine sellers. Moreover, in the country of countless free churches, anyone could found a church. Wine was also allowed to be used as a spice for food or for other purposes. Another loophole was that wine could be prescribed as a medicine (a recipe for this is shown below right). Many doctors were willing to prescribe "medicinal champagne" and medicinal wine could be bought in any drugstore. Certain alcoholic beverages, such as the Underberg bitter, which was popular in the USA, were excluded from the ban.
There were also very original ideas to circumvent the ban without violating the law. One company made raisin cake and "warned" in the instructions: "Do not put the raisin cake in the filled bathtub, otherwise it will inevitably start to ferment and turn into wine". Hundreds of thousands of Americans produced their "house wine" in exactly the same way during the Prohibition period through this clever and clever marketing. So-called "grape bricks" made from concentrated grape juice were also produced, on whose packaging the warning note read: "Do not add yeast, otherwise the contents will ferment". Another possibility was to buy grapes, because according to the law "non- intoxicating fruit and fruit juices could be produced". Many Americans became hobby cellar masters. Especially popular was the French new variety Alicante Henri Bouschet, which was planted on a large scale.
Already from the first year of prohibition, an immense number of new, illegal pubs were built. A large proportion of the guests were, interestingly enough, women, who were forbidden to visit bars in the legal times - before prohibition. The supply of these pubs was mainly controlled by gangs of gangsters. The best known was the notorious Al Capone (1899-1947). It was only after prohibition that the Sicilian mafia became the all-dominant power in the US underworld. Bribery and intimidation of politicians, policemen and legal witnesses were everyday occurrences. Gangs engaged in daylight shootings for markets. It was above all the escalating violence that brought more and more citizens up against the absurd law. The proponents drew the (wrong) conclusion from this that one would have to create even stricter bans, as well as for private alcohol consumption (which was still allowed).
As a result, viticulture and wine culture in the USA declined completely and most of the winegrowers and wineries perished. Many former wineries now became pure grape producers. The Paul Garett company switched to the production of grape juice from the historic Scuppernong variety. This company was the only one that was able to produce wine again immediately after the ban ended in 1933. The consumption of wine doubled, but this did not benefit the American wineries. The knowledge of how to make wine had been lost. After the prohibition, this also shaped the American taste of wine for several decades and led to a loss of quality. Because mainly sweet wines were produced with much less effort.
Prohibition also plunged the USA into a social crisis and even led to constitutional discussions. For the prohibition of alcohol contradicted the principles of the right of every individual to "personal liberty" enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. The economic crisis of 1929 then brought about a change in thinking, because its advocates had always claimed that prohibition was economically sensible. For the 1932 elections, the Democratic Party made the lifting of prohibition one of its most important points in its election programme. The newly elected 32nd US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) said the legendary sentence "I think now is time for a beer" in this regard. In 1933, with the 21st amendment to the Constitution, Congress repealed the 18th amendment of 1919, leaving it up to the individual states to make the necessary regulations. Even today, however, there are still strong forces for prohibition in the USA. In 1998, a referendum in Chicago reintroduced a ban on alcohol. The state of Utah has the strictest rules regarding alcohol consumption. In addition, in many US states wine is still treated as a drug.
The consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited outside restaurants. That is why there is a special custom to pack a bottle of alcohol in a paper bag and drink it in this form. Open bottles in the car may not be taken along and alcohol in any form may only be transported in the boot. On every bottle of wine sold in the USA, the following text must be included as a government warning Women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of possible harm to the unborn child. Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive or operate a machine and may cause health problems. The three-tier system was introduced after prohibition. This requires that in the chain of alcohol distribution, producer, wholesale and retail must be strictly separated.
The long lasting and until today existing rigorous prohibition of alcohol is the one in Islam; see under prohibition of alcohol. Further keywords on the subject are allergy, blood alcohol concentration, health, hangover, headache, intoxication, Satyricon, drinking culture, vinotherapy and drinking. An interesting website with more information and many pictures about prohibition in the USA is Prohibition - An Interactive History
Barrel destruction: Underwodd & Underwood/Corbis
Car and say I'm no camel, I want beer: FineArtAmerica.com
Al Capone and St. Valentine's Massacre: Hulton-German Collection/Corbis
End of Prohibition: Prohibition - An Interactive History