Alcohol and Prohibition Dictionary and Glossary

Alcohol refers to ethyl alcohol or ethanol, the type found in alcohol beverages. It is also commonly used to refer to alcohol beverage in general. The word alcohol is from the Arabic "al kohl," meaning the essence.
American Council on Alcohol Problems
The American Council on Alcohol Problems is a temperance organization that promotes the control of consumption (more accurately called reduction of consumption) approach to reducing alcohol problems. It is the current name of the Anti-Saloon League.
American Issue Publishing Company
The American Issue Publishing Company printed an enormous volume of temperance materials for the Anti-Saloon League and other temperance groups promoting prohibition of alcohol under the direction of Ernest H. Cherrington.
American Temperance Society
The formation of the American Temperance Society in 1826 marked the beginning of the first formal national temperance movement in the country.
American Temperance Union
A national temperance union was formed in 1826 as the American Temperance Union. Shortly thereafter, a second national temperance group was organized and the two groups merged in 1836 to form the American Temperance Union.
Anti-Prohibition Congress
The Anti-Prohibition Congress held annual meetings in various cities throughout Europe during the 1920s, during which time National Prohibition existed in the United States. Prohibitionists from the U.S. had been trying to bring about world-wide prohibition, which many people in Europe saw as a significant threat to their way of life.
Anti-Saloon League
The Anti-Saloon League was a major organization involved in bringing about National Prohibition in the US. It is now, combined with the American Temperance League, known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems and actively attempts to influence public policy.

The Anti-Saloon League still exists; it is now (combined with the American Temperance League) known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems and actively attempts to influence public policy.6

Association Against the Prohibition Amendment
The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment was established in 1918 in an unsuccessful effort to prevent the Eighteenth Amendment to U.S. Constitution which established National Prohibition. However, its grew dramatically in membership after Prohibition was implemented and its unintended effects became obvious.
Bathtub gin
Bathtub gin got its name from the fact that alcohol, glycerine and juniper juice was mixed in bottles or jugs too tall to be filled with water from a sink tap so they were commonly filled under a bathtub tap.
Beer is a fermented beverage made from barley malt or other cereal grains. From the Latin dibere (to drink).
Blind pig
Blind pig is another name for a speakeasy (see speakeasy). Perhaps called a blind pig because the establishment turned a "blind eye" to Prohibition or because consuming the often contaminated illegal alcohol beverages sold there sometimes caused blindness.
Blind tiger
The same as blind pig or speakeasy.
Board of Temperance Strategy
The Board of Temperance Strategy was established 1930 by the Anti-Saloon League as a "last ditch" effort to coordinate resistance to the growing public demand for the repeal of National Prohibition

By the time Prohibition was repealed, nearly 800 gangsters in the City of Chicago alone had been killed in bootleg-related shootings. And, of course, thousands of citizens were killed, blinded, or paralyzed as a result of drinking contaminated bootleg alcohol.7

Bootleg refers to illegally produced alcoholic beverages.
A bootlegger is a person who illegally makes, transports or sells alcoholic beverages. Bootlegging still exists because taxes more than double the average retail price of a bottle of vodka, gin, whiskey or other distilled spirit beverage.
Bootlegging refers to illegally producing, transporting or selling alcoholic beverages.
Bourbon is a beverage that is distilled from a mash of at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. It was first produced by Reverend Elijah Craig in Bourbon County, Kentucky. See Beverages: Ales to Zombies.
Brand name
Brand name means proprietary name. The term originated from the practice among American distillers of branding (or burning into the wood) their names and emblems on their kegs before shipment.
Bricks of wine
Dehydrated compressed blocks or "bricks" of wine were widely sold during Prohibition because it was not illegal to produce wine at home for personal consumption. The bricks were reconstituted with water and used to make wine.
Bureau of Prohibition
The Bureau of Prohibition was a federal agency established to enforce National Prohibition. It was characterized by rampant corruption.
Clip joint
A place of entertainment in which customers are tricked into paying highly inflated prices for inferior goods or services , or even none at all, and then coerced into paying.
Committee of Fifty
In 1893, a group of leading scientists and educators formed the prestigious Committee of Fifty for the Investigation of the Liquor Problem. It found the WCTU's Scientific Temperance Instructional to be neither scientific nor instructional but propagandistic.
Control of consumption
Control of consumption refers to an approach to reducing alcohol problems that attempts to do so by reducing the consumption of alcohol. It is more accurately called the reduction of consumption approach. Its ultimate goal is to establish the prohibition of alcohol. Currently being promoted by many governments and temperance groups. Also called public health model, neo-prohibitionism, and the new temperance movement. See Neo-Prohibitionism and Neo-Prohibitionists.
Corn whiskey
Corn whiskey is distilled from a mash of at least 80% corn.
Crusaders (The)
The Crusaders was an influential repeal organization founded in 1929 that chose to work at the local level across the country.
Denatured alcohol
Ethyl alcohol that is made undrinkable by the addition of nauseating or poisonous substances.
Distilled spirits
Refers to ethanol that is produced by heating fermented products, such as wine or mash, and then condensing the resulting vapors. Sometimes referred to as liquor or hard liquor. The term hard liquor is misleading in that it implies that the product is more intoxicating or potent than beer or wine. In reality, a bottle or can of beer, a five-ounce glass of dinner wine, and a shot of distilled spirits (gin, vodka, etc.) all contain an equivalent amount of alcohol.
A dry was person who supported prohibition and a dry area is one in which the purchase of alcoholic beverage is legally prohibited.

There are hundreds of dry counties across the United States. About 18,000,000 people live in the 10% of the area of the US that is dry.

Dry agents
Law enforcement agents of the Bureau of Prohibition. Corruption was a continuing problem among Prohibition agents. One of the most infamous was William Harvey Thompson ("Kinky" Thompson).
Eighteenth Amendment
The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States and its possessions beginning in January of 1920. Contrary to common belief, it did not prohibit the purchase or consumption of alcohol. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.
The process by which yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Distilled spirits flavored with juniper berries. It may also include additional flavorings. Although gins may be aged, producers of those sold in the US are prohibited from reporting that they have been aged or, if so, for how long they have been aged.
The unpleasant consequence of over-consuming alcohol. It is characterized by headache, fatigue and often nausea. It can be prevented by not drinking to excess. Beware of the hangover remedies flooding the market.
Jake-foot was a paralysis of the legs and feet caused by tainted bootleg alcohol.
John Barleycorn
John Barleycorn is a personification of alcoholic beverages.
Kentucky whiskey
A blend of whiskeys distilled in Kentucky.
Ku Klux Klan (KKK)
The KKK strongly supported Prohibition and its strict enforcement.
Labor's National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act
The American Federation of Labor's National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act was created in January of 1931. The Volstead Act was the law that provided for the implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment that established National Prohibition.
Southern boys who signed Lincoln-Lee Legion abstinence pledges.
Lincoln-Lee Legion
The Lincoln-Lee Legion was established by Anti-Saloon League-founder Howard Hyde Russell in 1903 to promote the signing of abstinence pledges by children.
Northern boys who signed Lincoln-Lee Legion abstinence pledges.
Liquor historically referred to any alcohol beverage but today it generally refers only to distilled spirits.
Mash is ground malt (germinated barley) mixed with water.
Molly Pitcher Club
The Molly Pitcher Club was founded in 1922 by M. Louise Gross. Named after a perhaps mythical Revolutionary heroine, the club was libertarian in orientation and attempted to prevent federal interference with personal behaviors that were not criminal. M. Louise Gross and her members did not believe that consuming alcoholic beverages should be criminalized.
Illegally produced beverage alcohol. It is frequently tainted.
National Prohibition Act
The National Prohibition Act of 1919 (usually known as the Volstead Act) was the enabling legislation that made possible the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition Amendment).
Noble Experiment
The Noble Experiment was another name for National Prohibition, usually used by supporters and occasionally derisively by opponents.
Refers to legally attempting to prevent the production and consumption of alcohol beverages. National prohibition has been tried in numerous countries around the world during the twentieth century but has always failed and always been repealed. It is the ultimate goal of the control of consumption (more accurately called reduction of consumption) approach to reducing alcohol abuse.

"What America needs now is a drink" declared President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the end of Prohibition.8

Prohibition agent
A Prohibition agent was an enforcement officer charged with the responsibility of enforcing National Prohibition. Prohibition agents were frequently corrupt. One of the most notorious was William Harvey Thompson, better known as "Kinky Thompson.
Prohibition Party
The Prohibition Party of the U.S. was founded in 1869, has run a presidential candidate in every election since 1872, is the third oldest political party in the country, and has recently experienced a major organizational division.
Prohibition Bureau
See Bureau of Prohibition.
Prescription for medicinal alcohol
It was legally permissible to obtain prescriptions for medicinal alcohol from physicians.Prescription for medicinal alcohol
Refers to the alcohol content of a beverage. In the US, proof represents twice the alcohol content as a percentage of volume. Thus, a 100 proof beverage is 50% alcohol by volume and a 150 proof beverage is 75% alcohol. It derives from early days when "proof" of a whiskey used in barter was to mix it with gunpowder to see if it contained enough alcohol to burn.
Real McCoy
Bill McCoy was a bootlegger well known for selling quality imported goods: the original "real McCoy."
The repeal of National Prohibition was accomplished by the Twenty-first Amendment, which became effective on December 5, 1933.

Repeal occurred at 4:31 p.m. on December 5, 1933, ending 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours and 32.5 minutes of Prohibition.

Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition
The Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition was founded in 1931 shortly before the 1932 Republican National Convention to pressure the party to support Repeal of National Prohibition (1920-1933).
Root beer
A non-alcohol beverage that was developed by temperance activists in the naive hope that it would replace real beer in popularity.
Rum row
Rum rows were lines of ships that anchored just beyond the three-mile limit near large coastal cities and off-loaded illegal onto small speedboats that took it to shore.
Scientific Temperance Federation
The Scientific Temperance Federation was established following death of Mary Hunt of the WCTU to receive her estate, which had been clouded by arrangements she had made to conceal the fortune she had made from her "voluntary" temperance work.
Scientific Temperance Instruction
After reviewing the results of three studies of Scientific Temperance Instruction practice and outcomes, the committee of scientists and educators concluded that "under the name of 'Scientific Temperance Instruction' there has been grafted upon the public school system of nearly all our States an educational scheme relating to alcohol which is neither scientific, nor temperate, nor instructive."
Speakeasies were illegal drinking establishments that were so called because one typically had to whisper a code word or name through a slot in a locked door to gain admittance.
Twenty-First Amendment
The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment that had created National Prohibition. It is called the Repeal amendment.
Two-wine theory
The two-wine theory was developed when some Christian churches began to teach that consuming alcohol was a sin and had to reconcile that belief with the fact that Jesus both made and drank wine. The solution was to insist that Jesus drank grape juice rather than wine. However, when negative consequences followed, the beverage was referred to as wine. The Bible says to "use a little wine for thy stomach's sake" (1 Timothy 5:23). This admonition caused serious problems for temperance writers, so they insisted that the Bible was actually advising people to rub alcohol on their abdomens.

During Prohibition, temperance activists hired a scholar to rewrite the Bible by removing all references to alcohol beverage.9

Untouchables (The)
The Untouchables were Elliot Ness and a group of nine other Prohibition agents the recruited to fight organized crime in Chicago. The group consisted of Elliot Ness, Lyle Chapman, Barney Cloonan, Tom Friel, Bill Gardner, Mike King, Joe Leeson, Paul Robsky, and Sam Seager. The Bureau of Prohibition was characterized by corruption. It was later discovered that not all of the untouchables were untouched by corruption; it appears that one of Ness' selections was dishonest.
United Repeal Council
The United Repeal Council was an advisory cabinet consisting of leaders of the Crusaders, the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform, the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, the American Hotel Association, and the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers. It was established early in 1931 to lobby for Repeal planks at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
Volstead Act
The popular name for the National Prohibition Act of 1919 that was the enabling legislation making possible the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition Amendment).
Voluntary Committee of Lawyers
The Voluntary Committee of Lawyers was established by a group of highly influential attorneys in 1927 to promote the repeal of National Prohibition. A second organization of same name has recently been organized for a different purpose.
See Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
Webb-Kenyon Act
The Webb-Kenyon Act, passed in 1913 by the U.S. Congress, prohibits interstate "shipment or transportation" of alcoholic beverages "in violation of any law of [any] State, Territory, or District of the United States." The Act was sponsored by Rep. Edwin Y. Webb, Democrat of North Carolina and William S. Kenyon, Republican of Iowa and passed over the veto of President William Taft.
Wets were people who approved of alcoholic beverages and opposed prohibition. It also refers to any geographic area in which the purchase of alcoholic beverages is legally prohibited.
Wickersham Commission
The Wickersham Commission was established in May of 1929 when President Herbert Hoover appointed former U.S. Attorney General George W. Wickersham to head the U.S. National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, popularly called the Wickersham Commission.
Girls who signed Lincoln-Lee Legion pledges of alcohol abstinence.
Wilson Act
To enable dry states to prohibit alcoholic beverages within their borders, Congress passed the Wilson Act in 1890. The law was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and remains in force today.
Wine brick
See bricks of wine.
Woman's Christian Temperance Union
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union was a large and powerful group that promoted National Prohibition. Today it is largely a neo-prohibition organization. Note that the correct word in the name is Woman's rather than Women's.
Women's Moderation Union
The Women's Moderation Union, founded and headed by M. Louise Gross, helped belie the Women's Christian Temperance Union's insistence that it spoke for American women.

Abraham Lincoln held a liquor license and operated several taverns.10

Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform
The Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) was the largest women's organization opposing Prohibition and calling for Repeal.
Wort (vort) is the sweet mash that is food for yeast that produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Further Reading

  • Readers may find those books preceded by an asterisk (*) to be especially interesting or useful.
  • Aaron, Paul, and Musto, David. Temperance and Prohibition in America: An Historical Overview. In: Moore, Mark H., and Gerstein, Dean R. (eds.) Alcohol and Public Policy: Beyond the Shadow of Prohibition. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1981. pp. 127-181.
  • Allen, Clayton S. The Repeal of Prohibition in Mississippi. Thesis. University of Mississippi, 1992.
  • *Asbury, Herbert. The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1950.
  • Becker, Susan D. Review of American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. Journal of American History, 1996, 83(3), 1057-1058.
  • Behr, E. Prohibition. New York: Arcade, 1996.
  • Boyd, John A. The Repeal of Prohibition in Ohio: the Repeal Process from Congress to Ohio. Thesis. University of Cincinnati, 1981.
  • Cannon, Bishop James. Prohibition Repeal Unthinkable. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1928.
  • Cherrington, Ernest H. The Fight against Alcoholism in the United States Since the Repeal of Prohibition. Washington, DC: Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morality of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1937.
  • Childs, Randolph W. Making Repeal Work. Philadelphia, PA: Pennsylvania Alcoholic Beverage Study, Inc., 1947.
  • Choate, Jr., Joseph H. Reasons for the Repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment: An Address. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Temperance pamphlets, part 3.
  • Committee on the Judiciary. U.S. House of Representatives. Repeal of Prohibition on Federal Employees Contracting or Trading with Indians. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 1996.
  • Committee on the Judiciary. Modification or Repeal of National Prohibition. Hearings. Seventy-second Congress, First Session. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1932.
  • Dickinson, Edwin. The effect of prohibition repeal upon the liquor treaties. American Journal of International Law, 1934, 28, 101-104.
  • Engdahl, Sylvia. (ed.) Amendments XVIII and XXI: Prohibition and Repeal. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2009.
  • Engelmann, Larry. Intemperance: The Lost War Against Liquor. New York: Free Press, 1979
  • Everest, Allan S. Rum Across the Border. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1978.
  • Fantus, R.J. Repeal Prohibition. Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons, 2008, 93(6), 47-48.
  • *Furnas, J. C. The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1965.
  • Gasper, Louis. The Movement for Repeal of National Prohibition, 1926-1933. Thesis. Bowling Green State University, 1949.
  • Gillett, Ransom H., and Holmes, John H. Repeal of the Prohibition Amendment. NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1923.
  • Graymont, Barbara. Prohibition and Repeal: The Churches' Crusade that Failed. Thesis. University of Chicago, 1959.
  • Harrison, Leonard V. and Laine, Elizabeth. After Repeal. NY: Harper & Brothers, 1936.
  • House Judiciary Committee. The Prohibition Amendment, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of the Untied States In Lieu of the Eighteenth Amendment: Hearings, 70th Cong., 1st sess, serial 21 (Washington: GPO, 1928)
  • *Kobler, John E. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1973, 143.
  • *Kyvig, David E. Repealing National Prohibition. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2000.
  • Kyvig, David E. Review of American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. American Historical Review, 1997, 102(2), 538.
  • Leeman, Richard W. Reflective Rhetoric: Its Framework and its Utility in Explicating the Rhetoric of Prohibition and Repeal. Thesis. University of Maryland, 1982.
  • Legislative Reference Service. Intoxicating Liquors: State Prohibition after Repeal of the 18th Amendment. Washington, DC: Legislative Reference Service, 1933.
  • Lucas, Eileen. The Eighteenth and Twenty-First Amendments: Alcohol, Prohibition, and Repeal. Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1998.
  • Munger, Michael and Schaller, Thomas. The Prohibition-Repeal amendments: a natural experiment in interest group influence. Public Choice, 1997, 90(1/4), 139-163.
  • Nelli, Hubert S. American Syndicate Crime: A Legacy of Prohibition. In: Kyvig, David E. (Ed.) Law, Alcohol, and Order: Perspectives on National Prohibition. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985.
  • Nishi, Dennis. Prohibition. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 2003.
  • Patch, Buel W. Preparations for Prohibition Repeal. Washington, DC: Editorial Research Report, 1933.
  • Pickett, Deets. Then and Now: The Truth about Prohibition and Repeal. Columbus, OH: School and College Services, 1952.
  • Pollard, Joseph P. The Road to Repeal: Submission to Conventions. NY: Brentano's, 1932.
  • Prohibition vs. Repeal Literature. Five Current Aspects of Repeal. Washington, DC: Prohibition vs. Repeal Literature, 1936.
  • Repeal Associates. Repeal Review. Washington, DC: Repeal Associates, 1936-1965.
  • Roizen, Ron. Redefining alcohol in post-repeal America: Lessons from the short life of Everett Colby's Council for Moderation, 1934-1936. Contemporary Drug Problems, 1991,75, 237-272.
  • *Rose, Kenneth D. American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition. NY: New York University Press, 1996.
  • *Root, Grace C. Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. NY: Harper & Brothers, 1934.
  • Sabin, Pauline Morton. I change my mind on Prohibition, Outlook, June 13, 1928.
  • Sabin, Pauline Morton. Women's revolt against Prohibition, Review of Reviews, November, 1929, 80, 86-88.
  • Sabin, Pauline Morton. Why American mothers demand repeal, Liberty, September 10, 1932, 12-14.
  • Sann, Paul. The 20s, the Lawless Decade: A Pictorial History of a Great American Transition from the World War I Armistice and Prohibition to Repeal and the new Deal. NY: Da Capo Press, 1957 and 1984.
  • Schaller, Thomas F. Institutional Design, Institutional Choice, and the Case of Prohibition Repeal. Thesis. Yale University, 1997.
  • Schrad, Mark L. Constitutional Blemishes: American Alcohol Prohibition and Repeal as Policy Punctuation. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.
  • Severen, Bill. The End of the Roaring Twenties: Prohibition and Repeal. NY: J. Messner, 1969. (Juvenile readership)
  • Shellenberger, Kurt L. Prohibition in Pennsylvania from Ratification to Repeal. Thesis. Millersville State College, 1974.
  • Shouse, Jouett. The Status of Prohibition Repeal. Washington, DC: Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, 1933.
  • *Sinclair, Andrew. Prohibition: The Era of Excess. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1962.
  • Stegh, Leslie J. Wet and Dry Battles in the Cradle State of Prohibition: Robert J. Bulkley and the Repeal of Prohibition in Ohio. Thesis. University of Cincinnati, 1981.
  • Tietsort, Francis J. Temperance - or Prohibition? NY: American, 1929.
  • Walker, Robert S, and Patterson, Samuel C. Oklahoma Goes Wet: The Repeal of Prohibition. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1960.
  • Weise, Chetley D. The Political Economy of Prohibition and Repeal. Thesis. Auburn University, 1998.

Filed Under: Prohibition