It’s generally argued that National Prohibition of alcohol was a failure. But there were some benefits of Prohibition. Here are a few.
Some of the Benefits of Prohibition
1. Women’s Empowerment
The temperance movement gave chances for women to develop organizational skills. Also leadership and political skills. See Women Leaders of Temperance to learn more. They included , among many others, these.
Prohibition outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages. But there were exceptions. They included medical purposes. Doctors wrote many millions of prescriptions for alcohol. (Medicinal of course. Wink, wink.) For doing so, they made the equivalent of a half billion dollars per year.
Drug stores selling alcohol also profited greatly. Walgreens grew from 20 stores at the beginning of Prohibition to 525 ten years later.
3. Grape Growers
Prohibition created high demand for grapes. Not for eating but for home-made wine. Grape acreage in California quickly increased by 700%.
4. Public Officials
Large numbers of police, sheriffs, Prohibition agents, mayors, and other officials profited. Their income from bribes soared. And it was easy money. Sometimes entire city administrations were corrupted.
The rapid increase in crime led to the expansion of prisons. This profited builders. It also helped the guards and others needed to staff them..
6. Moonshiners and Bootleggers
Prohibition made the sale of alcohol illegal. So it made a market for moonshine and bootlegging. The most famous was Al Capone. He made $60,000,000 per year, untaxed! The average industrial worker made under $1,000 per year. The mob made money from Prohibition. During that time, Las Vegas was a sleepy, dusty town. After Repeal, the mob poured money into it. Vegas has boomed ever since.
Not well-known were the hundreds of thousands of people who became bootleggers. They included the high society LaMontages brothers. They included the odd-job laborer, Edward Doneganw. He became a millionaire within four months. And the former police sergeant, Roy Olmstead. His bootlegging made him one of the largest employers on Puget Sound. He employed office workers, bookkeepers, collectors, salespeople, and dispatchers. Also warehouse workers, mechanics, drivers, rum running crews, and legal counsel. They all shared the benefits of Prohibition from his illegal activities.
7. Women’s Liberation
Saloons had been for men only, except for prostitutes. But the speakeasies that arose with Prohibition welcomed women. They were with their husbands or dates. This led to equality in drinking. That continues today.
8. Those Whose Religion Opposes Alcohol
Some religious groups oppose drinking alcohol. Islam does. But some Christian groups do as well. They include Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, some Pentecostal Christian groups. Prohibition supported their anti-alcohol beliefs.
9. Cruise Lines
Prohibition helped cruise lines. “Cruises to nowhere” became popular. Ships would sail beyond the three mile limit. There, they could legally sell and serve alcohol. They also provided gambling and other entertainment. The ships would sail in circles until it was time to return to shore.
10. U.S. Maritime Law
Prohibition led to changes in maritime law. “Rum rows” of ships floated just beyond the three mile limit. Smaller vessels would obtain illegal alcohol from those ships and take it to shore.
In response, the U.S. government extended its jurisdiction to twelve miles. This was to make it more time consuming, dangerous, and expensive for rum running boats. to get alcohol from the “rum rows.”
Prohibition led to the development of NASCAR. It became very popular. Many bootleggers had developed skill driving fast cars. After Repeal, some bootleggers used their cars and driving skills to make money legally.
12. Many, Many Others
Many people were helped from the many injuries, poisonings, and deaths caused by Prohibition. They included doctors, nurses, orderlies, and hospitals. But don’t forget morticians, casket-makers, florists, and many, many others.
These are only twelve of the many benefits of Prohibition.
Resources: Benefits of Prohibition
Negative Effects of Prohibition.
Burns, K., et al. Prohibition. Culver City: PBS.
Behr, E. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America. NY: Arcade.
Dunn, J. Prohibition. Detroit: Lucent. (Juv.)
Merz, C. The Dry Decade. Seattle: U. Wash Press.
Hintz, M. Farewell, John Barleycorn. Prohibition in the US. Minneapolis: Lerner. (Juv.)
Kyvig, D. Repealing National Prohibition. Kent, OH: Kent State U. Press.
Lerner, M. Dry Manhattan. Prohibition in New York City. Cambridge: Harvard U Press.
Okrent, D. Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. NY: Scribner.
Orr, T. Prohibition. San Diego: Blackbirch. Bio sketches of major figures. (Juv.)
Sinclair, A. Prohibition. London: Four Square.
You know much more about the benefits of Prohibition than most people. So kudos!