Naval Captain William H. Stayton formed the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA) in 1918. He did so in an effort to prevent the Eighteenth Amendment. That amendment established National Prohibition (1920-1933).
The group grew greatly after Prohibition began. That’s because Prohibition caused very serious problems.
The AAPA was a non-partisan, non-sectarian group. It was open to anyone who had not been in the alcohol business. Membership dues were one dollar per year.
That was not a small amount at the time. Yet membership rose very quickly. There were reportedly 100,000 members in 1921, 457,000 in 1922 and 726,000 in mid-1926.
John Roebling gave an early gift of $10,000. (He designed the Brooklyn Bridge.) That meant that finances would not be a problem. Indeed, it reportedly raised $800,000 between 1921-1926.
Association Against the Prohibition Amendment
Leadership roles in the AAPA 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, and business owner Marshall Field. Also the president of Carnegie Institute, financier Grayson Murphy, retired auto maker Henry Joy, and a retired federal judge. And they included several members of Congress as well as several railroad and bank presidents. Women were enrolled in an auxiliary group.
At first, the group wanted to reform Prohibition. But members couldn’t agree. Some wanted to promote better enforcement. Others wanted to encourage people to disregard the law. During the early to mid-1920s it appeared that repealing Prohibition was a political no-go. Also many people thought repeal would be illegal.
But with the passage of time the terrible problems caused by Prohibition grew. As a result, public sentiment turned against the failing law.
The AAPA launched a major publicity campaign in 1928. That helped mobilize the growing opposition to the Eighteenth Amendment. (It created Prohibition.)
The AAPA published many pamphlets, including these.
- Scandals of Prohibition Enforcement. Documented official crimes and corruption in five cities. They were Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Buffalo, and Philadelphia.
- The Cost of Prohibition and Your Income Tax. Estimated the loss of federal and state revenue because of National Prohibition.
- Canadian Liquor Crossing the Border. Reported that only five to ten percent of the over 1,000,000 gallons of liquor illegally crossing the northern border was stopped.
- Reforming America with a Shotgun: A Study of Prohibition Killings. Reported on the number of killings that had been occurring in efforts to enforce Prohibition.
- Measuring the Liquor Trade. Showed that alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths had increased as a result of Prohibition.
- Prohibition Enforcement: Its Effects on Courts and Prisons. Showed great increases in federal court loads. This led to plea bargaining and lighter sentences. That was necessary to ease overcrowding in court dockets, jails, and prisons.
By 1930 the AAPA was asking voters to “vote as you drink.” The American people cast their ballots three-to-one against Prohibition. That is, in favor of Repeal.
Prohibition failed. Worse than that, it created more problems.
Yet almost one in five U.S. adults today favors making drinking alcohol illegal for everyone. Of any age. And for any reason. But not even Prohibition did that. Learn what Prohibition didn’t prohibit. (Hint. It wasn’t drinking.)
- Engleman, L. The Lost War Against Liquor.
- Kerwin, P. and Apodaca, L. (comp.) Association Against the Prohibition Amendment Records. A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress. Wash: Lib of Cong.
- Maurice, A. (Ed.) How They Draw Prohibition. NY: Assn Against the Prohibition Movement, 1930.
- Wood, C. (Ed.) A Criticism of National Prohibition. Wash: Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, 1926.
Magazines & Newspapers
- TO BACK SMITH AT POLLS. Association Against Prohibition Amendment Will Vote Ticket. New York Times, Sept 24, 1924, p. 2.
- SEEK RIGHT TO CITE WASHINGTON ON BEER. Wets Ask Attorney General if They Can Read the First President’s Recipe. (Association Against Prohibition Amendment.) New York Times.
- Stayton, W. Have We Prohibition or only Prohibition laws? North Am Rev, June, 1925, 221, 591-59.