Association Against the Prohibition Amendment
The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment was established in 1918 by Naval Captain William H. Stayton in an unsuccessful effort to prevent the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which established National Prohibition (1920-1933). However, its grew dramatically in membership after Prohibition was implemented and its unintended effects became obvious.
The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment was a non-partisan, non-sectarian organization open to anyone who had not been in the alcohol business. Membership dues were set at one dollar per year (not a small amount at the time) but membership rose very quickly. There were reportedly 100,000 members in 1921, 457,000 in 1922 and 726,000 in mid-1926. An early gift of $10,000 from John Roebling assured that finances would not be a problem. Indeed, it reportedly raised $800,000 between 1921-1926.
Leadership roles in the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment tended to be held by those of wealth and power. They included an ex-New York City mayor, two du Pont brothers, publisher Charles Scribner, business owner Marshall Field, the president of Carnegie Institute, financier Grayson Murphy, retired auto manufacturer Henry Bourne Joy, a retired federal judge, several members of Congress and several railroad and bank presidents. Women were enrolled in an auxiliary organization.
At first, the group wanted to reform Prohibition but members couldn't agree on whether to promote the effective enforcement of the law or to encourage people to disregard the bad law. During the early to mid-1920s it appeared that repealing Prohibition was a political impossibility and many people questioned whether it would be legal to do so.
However, with the passage of time, the terrible problems caused by Prohibition continued to grow and public sentiment turned against the failing experiment in social engineering.
The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment launched a major publicity campaign in 1928 that helped mobilize the growing opposition to the Eighteenth Amendment. It published numerous pamphlets, including
- Scandals of Prohibition, which documented official crimes and corruption in five cities (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Buffalo, and Philadelphia),
- The Cost of Prohibition and Your Income Tax, which estimated the loss of federal and state revenue lost because of National Prohibition,
- Canadian Liquor Crossing the Border, which reported that only five to ten percent of the over 1,000,000 gallons of liquor illegally crossing the northern border was being intercepted,
- Reforming America with a Shotgun: A Study of Prohibition Killings, which reported on the number of killings that had been occurring in attempting to enforce Prohibition,
- Measuring the Liquor Trade, which demonstrated that alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths had increased as a result of Prohibition, and
- Prohibition Enforcement: Its Effects on Courts and Prisons, which documented dramatic increases in federal court loads, leading to plea bargaining and lighter sentences in order to ease overcrowding in court dockets, jails, and prisons.
By 1930 the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment was asking voters to "vote as you drink." The American people cast their ballots by an overwhelming three-to-one against Prohibition and in favor of Repeal. That was over 75 years ago.
References on the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment:
- Association Against the Prohibition Amendment and the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. Papers of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment and the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc. and the Hagley Museum and Library.
- Cashman, Sean Dennis. Prohibition: The Lie of the Land. NY: Free Press and London: Collier Macmillan, 1981.
- Engleman, Larry. Intemperance: The Lost War Against Liquor. NY: Free Press and London: Collier Macmillan, 1979.
- Field, Carter. Captain Bill Stayton - Guiding spirit of the "Little Group of Millionaires." Life, July 24, 1931, pp. 14-15.
- Kerwin, P. and Apodaca, L. (comp.) Association Against the Prohibition Amendment Records. A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2005.
- Kyvig, David. Repealing National Prohibition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.
- Maurice, Arthur B. (Ed.) How They Draw Prohibition. NY: Association Against the Prohibition Movement, 1930.
- New York Times. TO BACK SMITH AT POLLS.; Association Against Prohibition Amendment Will Vote Ticket. New York Times, September 24, 1924, p. 2.
- New York Times. SEEK RIGHT TO CITE WASHINGTON ON BEER; Wets Ask Attorney General if They Can Read the First President's Recipe.
- New York Times, February 20, 1926, p. 5. The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment submitted to Attorney General Sargent the question, Does it constitute a violation of the Volstead law to publish or circulate George Washington's recipe for making beer, even when in a photographic copy of his handwriting? (Washington was his new country's first large distiller. See George Washington.)
- The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment reported it would remain neutral between the major parties in the Fall. New York Times, July 22, 1932.
- Root, Grace C. Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. NY: Harper and Brothers, 1934.
- Stayton, William H. Have We Prohibition or only Prohibition laws? North American Review, June, 1925, 221, 591-59.
- Stayton, William H. The official view of the Anti-Prohibition Association, Current History, April, 1928, 4-9. Stayton was referring to the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment
- Stayton, William H. A Message for Opponents of Prohibition. (pamphlet) Washington, DC: Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, 1925.
- Time. National Affairs: Wet [pro-Prohibitionist] Plans. Time, December 12,1927. Reports the activities and plans of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment.
- Time. Prohibition: The Devious Decade. Time, July 12, 1926. Investigation of illegal political funding by the Anti-Saloon League involved testimony of William H. Stayton for the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment
- Wood, Charles S. (Ed.) A Criticism of National Prohibition. Washington, DC: Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, 1926