Before looking at Prohibition trivia, here’s some background. Millions of Americans supported federal Prohibition. By the time it began in 1920, over half the population lived in states or counties that were already“dry.”
Prohibitionists thought that most of the problems in the country were caused by drinking alcohol. This included poverty, crime, child neglect, partner violence, immorality, and corruption. They believed that prohibiting drinking would reduce or eliminate these and many other problems.
The famous evangelist, Billy Sunday, extolled the promised benefits of Prohibition. “The rein of tears is over,” he said. “The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.”1
Prohibition was a beautiful dream.
- Residents of some towns were absolutely convinced that alcohol caused all crime. Therefore, as Prohibition was about to begin, they sold their jails!2
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) strongly supported Prohibition and its strict enforcement.3
- Congressman Andrew Volstead (the “Father of Prohibition”), was defeated for re-election soon after Prohibition went into effect.4
- During Prohibition, temperance activists hired a scholar to revise the Bible. He removed all references to alcohol beverage. For example, wine became raisin bread.5
Hypocrisy was Rampant
- Cocktails were sometimes drunk in Congress between sessions on Prohibition issues.6
- George L. Cassiday was the best-known bootlegger to members of congress. He even had an office in the House of Representatives building. Cssidy was called “the man in the green hat.”7
- President Warren Harding, who had voted for Prohibition as a senator, served alcohol in the White House.8
- Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York City didn’t like Prohibition. He mailed winemaking instructions to his constituents.9
- The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives owned and operated an illegal still.10
- Prohibitionists opposed drinking alcohol. But many regularly drank patent tonics. Yet those tonics were generally 40% alcohol. That’s the same as most distilled spirits!11
Origin of “the real McCoy”? William ‘Bill’ McCoy was a bootlegger who sold only high quality imported alcohol. If he sold it, it was “the real McCoy.”12
- A Los Angeles jury in a bootlegging case was itself put on trial after it drank the evidence. The jurors argued that they had to determine if the evidence contained alcohol. They said it did. The alleged bootlegger had to be released because the jury drank the evidence.13
- Prohibition lasted 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours and 32.5 minutes.14
- When Prohibition was over, President Roosevelt said “What America needs now is a drink.”15
Popular Resources on Prohibition.
These resources are enjoyable to read our watch. But they’re also great sources of Prohibition Trivia.
Behr, E. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America. NY: Arcade, 1996.
Burns, K., et al. Prohibition. DVD video. Culver City: PBS, 2011.
Dunn, J. Prohibition. Detroit: Lucent, 2010. (Juvenile)
Nishi, D. Prohibition. San Diego: Greenhaven, 2004.
Hintz, M. Farewell, John Barleycorn: Prohibition in the US. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1996. (Juvenile)
Okrent, D. Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. NY: Scribner, 2010.
Peck, G. The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet. New Brunswick: Rutgers U Press, 2009.
Slavicek, L. The Prohibition Era. Temperance in the US. NY: Chelsea, 2009.
A Note on Prohibition Trivia
Trivia is the plural of the Latin word trivium. More than one Prohibition trivium are Prohibition trivia. Therefore, “The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) strongly supported Prohibition and its strict enforcement” is a Prohibition trivium. But this collection is Prohibition trivia. So, should it be “Prohibition trivia is fun!”? Or should it be “Prohibition trivia are fun!”?
1 Friedman, M. The Same Mistake. Schaefer Library website.
2 Anti-Saloon League. Anti-Saloon League of America Yearbook. Westerville, OH: Am Issue, 1920, p. 8.
3 Moore, L. Historical interpretation of the 1920’s Klan. J Social Hist, 1990, 24 (2), 341-358.
4 Kizilos, P. The man behind the act (Andrew J. Volstead). Am Hist, 2001, 35(6), 50.
5 American Mix, 2001, 1(1), 4.
6 Jennings, P. World News Tonight. ABC-TV network, Jan 29. 1999.
8 Esteicher, S. Wine. NY: Algora, 2006, p. 115.
9 Aaron, P. and Musto, D. Temperance and Prohibition in America. In: Moore, M., and Gerstein, D. (Eds.) Alcohol and Public Policy. Washington: Nat Acad Press, 1981, p. 159.
10 Jennings, P. World News Tonight. ABC-TV network, Jan 29. 1999.
11 Elliott, P. 100 Proof. NY: Penguin, 2000, p. 4.
12 Lender, M., and Martin, J. Drinking in America: a History. NY: Free Press, 1982, p. 144.
13 New York Times, Jan 7, 1928.
14 Carlson, J. Here’s What Prohibition Repeal Looked Like In NYC. Gothamist,
Apr 2, 2013.