National Prohibition and Repeal in Idaho

Idahoans had long supported outlawing alcohol beverages and had approved state-wide prohibition in 1916. They then ratified National Prohibition, which existed between 1920 and 1933.

It was widely believed that prohibiting alcohol would reduce crime, improve health, raise morality, and protect young people.

Because of strong temperance sentiment in the state, prohibitionists argued that the law would practically enforce itself. it soon became apparent how very wrong they were.

There were many people who considered it illegitimate to prohibit what they considered to be their right to consume alcohol. In addition, some, such as French, Italian, Basque, Jewish and other groups considered alcohol to be part of their heritage and culture. Indeed, to a substantial degree, Prohibition was part of a cultural war against those who were considered "foreign."

There was a strong demand for alcohol, and illegal operators quickly moved in to supply that demand. In order to operate, illegal alcohol producers and distributors routinely bribed law enforcement officers and others. Sometimes law enforcement officers themselves were directly involved in moonshining and bootlegging.

In 1923, the sheriff and a deputy sheriff of Ada County, the police chief of Boise, a prominent physician, and a number of others were arrested and charged with conspiring to produce and distribute illegal alcoholic beverages; only the sherif was acquitted.

Those who couldn't be bought off were sometimes threatened and intimidated. In For example, a federal officer preparing to testify in a moonshine case was threatened with death to prevent his testimony.

The frequent revelations of corruption turned many against Prohibition and lowered respect for law. It became fashionable for young women to drink for the first time in history.

Prohibition also promoted a new and dangerous pattern of drinking -- consuming less often but consuming large quantities at one time. People didn't go to a speakeasy to sip leisurely with a meal but to gulp alcohol quickly without food.

Quickly-made moonshine sometimes contained toxic compounds from careless production as well as creosote and embalming fluid. Consumers could suffer paralysis, blindness or even death.

Residents became increasingly concerned over problems created by Prohibition. They realized that it didn't reduce crime but increased it, didn't promote health but harmed it, didn't raise morality but lowered it, and didn't protect young people but harmed them. Not only did Prohibition fail, but it was counterproductive.

By a resounding vote of nearly 60%, the residents of Idaho called for the repeal of the disastrous public policy known as National Prohibition.


Additional Reading:

  • Asbury, Herbert. The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition.
    New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 (Originally published 1950).
  • Behr, Edward. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America. NY:
    Arcade, 1996.
  • Cashman, Sean D. Prohibition: The Lie of the Land. New York:Free Press, 1981.
  • Clark, N. H. Deliver Us From Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition. New York: Norton, 1976.
  • Furnas, J. C. The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum. New York: G. P.
    Pumam's Sons, 1965.
  • Kerr, K. Austin. Organized for Prohibition: A New History of the Anti-Saloon League. New haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.
  • Kobler, John. Ardent spirits: the rise and Fall of Prohibition. NY: G. P.
    Putnam's Sons, 1973.
  • Krout, John A. The Origins of Prohibition. New York: Knopf, 1925.
  • Kyvig, David. Repealing National Prohibition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1979.
  • Odegard, Peter H. Pressure Politics: The Story of the Anti-Saloon League.
    NY: Columbia University Press, 1928.
  • Rose, Kenneth D. American Women and the repeal of Prohibition. NY: New York University Press, 1996.
  • Sinclair, Andrew. Prohibition: The Era of Excess. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., 1962.
  • Willebrandt, Mabel Walker. The Inside of Prohibition. Indianapolis, IN:
    Bobbs-Merrill, 1929.

Filed Under: Prohibition

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