Repeal in America (U.S.): 1933 – Present, Timeline

Repeal in America occurred on December 5, 1933. This timeline covers major events in its history. The timeline continues up to the present day.

Achieving National Prohibition had been a Herculean effort. Millions of people had finally been convinced that Prohibition would usher in a new era. Crime would drop, Poverty would drop. Violence would drop. Prosperity would rise. Good health would rise. Happiness would rise. It was a beautiful dream. But it turned into a nightmare. This led to Repeal in America.

But many people clung to the dream. And many do so today.  Almost one of every five adults in the US favors making drinking illegal.

Repeal in America ended the temperance movement. But temperance sentiment continues to exist. The current movement is a neo-prohibitionist one.

The timeline now takes us from Repeal in America in 1933 up to the present day. Let’s begin!


  • Congress proposed the Twenty-first Amendment on February 20.1
  • Congress thought ratification of the 21st Amendment would take years. Anticipating this, it modified the Volstead Act with the Cullen-Harrison Act. This permitted the sale of 3.2% beer. It applied to states without prohibition laws. The effective was April 7, 1933.2
  • States were able to form constitutional conventions to consider ratifying the 21st Amendment. North Carolinians voted against calling a convention. They did so by a vote of 293,484 to 120,190. The state never ratified Repeal.3  South Carolina  specifically rejected the Amendment.  Montana ratified it a year after it had gone into effect.  In addition to North Carolina, eight other states never ratified the 21st Amendment.4
      • Georgia.
      • Kansas.
      • Louisiana.
      • Nebraska.
      • North Dakota.
      • Oklahoma.
      • South Carolina
      • South Dakota.
  • The total vote was 26% in favor of keeping Prohibition. It was 74% in favor of  repeal in America.5
  • Almost 80 percent of New Mexicans voted for Repeal. Santa Fe residents voted 2,768 to 201 for the repeal of Prohibition.6
  • Over 80 percent of Kentucky voters called for repeal in America. The state had been one of the first three to ratify the 18th Amendment.7
  • Residents of the state of New York voted almost eight to one in favor of Repeal.8


  • These were the dates when states ratified the 21st Amendment during the year.9
      • April 10, Michigan,
      • April  25, Wisconsin
      • May 8, Rhode Island,
      • May 25, Wyoming,
      • June 1, New Jersey
      •    ”   24, Delaware
      •    ”    26, Indiana
      •    ”    26, Massachusetts
      •    ”    27, New York,
      • July 10, Illinois
      •    ”  10, Iowa
      •    ”   11, Connecticut
      •    ”   11, New Hampshire
      •    ”   24, California
      •    ”   25, West Virginia
      • August 1, Arkansas
      •    ”       7, Oregon
      •    ”        8, Alabama
      •    ”        11, Tennessee,
      •    ”        29, Missouri
      • September 5, Arizona,
      •    ”              5, Nevada,
      •    ”              23, Vermont
      •    ”              26, Colorado
      • October 3, Washington
      •    ”         10, Minnesota
      •    ”         17, Idaho
      •    ”         18, Maryland
      •    ”         25, Virginia
      • November 2, New Mexico
      •    ”             14, Florida
      •    ”             24, Texas
      •    ”             27, Kentucky
      • December 5, Ohio
      •    ”             5, Pennsylvania
      •    ”             5, Utah
  • Ratification was completed on December 5. The Amendment was later ratified by these states.10
      • Maine (December 6, 1933)
      • Montana (August 6, 1934)
  • The 21st Amendment went into effect at 4:31 p.m. on December 5, 1933. Prohibition had lasted 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours and 32.5 minutes.11
  • Repeal in America did not extend to Native American reservations.12


  • Following the repeal of Prohibition, 18 states continued their own state-wide prohibition.59   Three of them had much more alcoholism than dry states.13
  • The three tier system was established following Repeal in America. Alcohol producers could sell only to wholesalers. They could only sell to retailers. Ownership had to be kept separate between all three tiers.58  


  • Federal laws that established prohibition in the District of Columbia and U.S. territories were repealed.14
      • District of Columbia – April 5, 1933 and January 24, 1934
      • Puerto Rico – March 2, 1934
      • Virgin Islands – March 2, 1934
      • Hawaii – March 26, 1934
      • Panama Canal Zone – June 19, 1934
  • Repeal in America was at the national level. But 18 states kept their prohibition. About two-thirds of all states had local option. Residents of counties and other political subdivisions could vote on the issue. So even after the repeal of Prohibition, 38% of the nation’s population lived in dry areas.15


  • The Federal Alcohol Administration Act became law. It enabled the federal government to regulate alcoholic beverages. It also mandated the three-tier system.16
  • State Board of Equalization v. Young’s Market Co. was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. It held that the 21st Amendment as giving states an absolute exception to the Commerce Clause in the control and regulation of alcoholic beverages.17


The president of the World Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (World WCTU), Ella Boole, praised Adolph Hitler because he gave the beverage concession at last summer’s Olympic Village to the Deutscher Frauenbund der Abstinenz (Nazi WCTU), is a total abstainer, [and] supports restaurants which serve no beer.”18


British and French allied soldiers were given generous alcohol rations. American soldiers were denied them.19


In Ziffrin, Inc. v. Reeves the U.S., the Supreme Court reaffirmed its 1936 interpreted of the 21st Amendment.20


WCTU membership had fallen to 216,843.


Temperance leaders tried unsuccessfully to have prohibition imposed on all U.S. military bases.21


Most prohibition laws in Kansas were lifted by voters. But the sale of alcohol by the drink in public places was still prohibited.60


repeal in America
Mamie Colvin

Time magazine reported that “the dry-throated voice of Prohibition was being heard again in the land” as Mamie Colvin led an effort in Congress to prohibit the interstate advertising of alcoholic beverages by radio or press. Before the Senate’s Interstate Commerce Committee, Colvin not only objected to the interstate advertising of alcohol.  She insisted that “It is false and misleading not to put the label ‘Poison’ on it.”22


The Prohibition Party nominee for the presidency got 73,413 votes. The Party has continued to run candidates but never had as many as 50,000 votes since then.23


Native American reservations were given local option. They could vote for the repeal of prohibition if they wished. But otherwise they remained dry.24


Earl Dodge, long-time candidate of the U.S. Prohibition Party, first ran as a candidate for public office.25


The controversial single distribution theory of drinking was proposed.26 Research has largely found it unsupportable. But it became widely used to promote neo-prohibitionism.


The last successful Prohibition Party candidates in the 20th century were elected. They were two candidates elected to the town council of Winona Lake, Indiana.27


When the WCTU learned that President Kennedy had open bars at White House parties, it reacted with outrage. In response, he stopped. But later, he quietly resumed the practice.28


An historian observed that ‘Up to the present day, alcohol is still miscalled a poison.’29 Indeed, it is still being called a poison in the 21st century.


  • The American Council on Alcohol Problems became the name of the National Temperance League. It had earlier been the Temperance League. Before that it was the Anti-Saloon League.30 The current name disguises its prohibitionist and neo-prohibitionist goals.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court made an important decision in Hostetter v. Idlewild Bon Voyage Liquor Corp. It held that state power under the 21st Amendment can be restricted in alcohol beverage matters. This, in spite of  the Commerce Clause31
  • In Department of Revenue v. James B. Beam Distilling Co., the U.S. Supreme Court held that a Kentucky tax on imported whiskey violated the Import-Export Clause.32


Mississippi became the last state to drop state-wide prohibition.33


The federal excise tax on spirits was raised so high a moonshiner could produce and sell it for half the amount of the tax alone.61


Repeal in America
Vern Miller

‘Kansas Attorney General Vern Miller launches a new round of enforcement during his 1971-74 term. Most notoriously, he raids Amtrak trains to stop illegal liquor sales, and prohibits airlines from serving alcoholic beverages in airspace over Kansas.’34 He insisted that “Kansas goes all the way up and all the way down,” a legal opinion that was widely ridiculed in legal circles.35


The U.S. legalized home brewing of beer for the first time since before National Prohibition began in 1920. Up to 200 gallons per household could be produced tax-free.36


repeal in America
Candace Lightner

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was established to reduce alcohol-related highway fatalities.37 Candace (Candy) Lightner founded it. She later left MADD when it changed focus. “It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned,” she said.38 Since then, it has become increasingly anti-alcohol rather than simply anti-drunk driving.


The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was passed.10


Kansas voters approved the sale of alcohol by the drink in public.39


Cheerwine is a non-alcoholic soft drink sold in Southern states for over 75 years. But MADD objected to both the name and the fact that the soft drink is sold to those under the age of 21!40 The WCTU similarly objected to root beer in 1895.


Researchers found that a higher proportion of residents dry counties are involved in alcohol-related traffic crashes than are those in wet counties. Their analysis suggests that residents of dry counties have to drive farther from their homes to consume alcohol. That increases impaired driving exposure.41 This was supported by a second study reported the same year.42


  • repeal in America
    Carry A. Nation (aka Carrie Nation)

    Those who attended the WCTU convention were told they should recapture the spirit of Carry A. Nation.44  She was the hatchet swinging WCTU leader of the early 1900s.

  • It became legal to note the alcohol content on beer containers.43


A Rhode Island law against advertising the price of alcoholic beverages was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, it held the law to be a violation of free speech.45


The first successful Prohibition Party candidate in the 21st century was elected as a township assessor in Pennsylvania.46


Earl Dodge

The controversial Earl Dodge was ousted as chair of the Prohibition Party. Dodge and his faction left the Party. They then claimed to be the Party.


  • Laws that permit in-state wineries to ship to consumers but prohibit out-of-state wineries from doing so are unconstitutional. This was the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Granholm v. Heald.47
  • Machines with which users inhale alcohol vapors mixed with pure oxygen were introduced. They’re called alcohol without liquid or AWOL machines. Laws against their use were passed in states across the U.S.48
  • A doctor at Castle Craig Clinic in Scotland said that a new temperance movement is needed. He saw a growing mood ‘to reject alcohol’ there.49
  • Researchers found that dry counties have many more illicit drug related problems. They concluded that ‘Changing an alcohol access policy to allow the sale of alcohol decreases drug-related mortality.’50
  • A study of all counties in Arkansas found that dry ones have higher alcohol-related fatalities throughout the state.51


  • Perennial Prohibition Party candidate Earl Dodge died. The controversial Party official was ousted from leadership in 2004. Violations of Party bylaws, allegations of financial corruption, many charges of theft, and other problems led to his downfall.
  • Absinthe again became legal in the U.S. after almost a centurylong ban. It was made  illegal as an alleged hallucinogen. This belief was promoted by French wine producers. They faced stiff competition from the increasingly popular drink.52


repeal in AmericaThe WCTU awarded its first Millstone Award to the Amethyst Initiative. Dr. John McCardell accepted the ‘honor’ on behalf of the group he founded. It promotes about the drinking age. The Millstone Award highlights those who “promote unhealthy, illegal or immoral behavior that we believe places children at risk.’53


Many Native American reservations remain “dry” today. That includes Pine Ridge in South Dakota. It lies just one mile from the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska. Whiteclay has a population of 10 people. It also has four stores that sell over four million dollars worth of beer each year. Most customers come from Pine Ridge, just over the state line.54


A CNN nation-wide poll of US adults was done. It found that 18% believed that drinking should be illegal.55 Not even Prohibition did that. For example, those who had stockpiled alcohol could legally drink it.56


A study found that dry counties have more meth lab seizures per 100,000 residents than do wet counties. This suggests that meth production is more common in areas where alcohol sales are banned. It found that ‘Local alcohol bans increase the costs of obtaining alcohol, which reduces the relative price of illicit drugs.’57

These were major events of Repeal in America from 1933 up to today.

  1. Twenty-first Amendment.
  2. Gately, I. Drink. NY: Gotham, 2008, p. 398.
  3. Alcohol Prohibition and Repeal.
  4. Ratification of Constitutional Amendments.
  5. End of Prohibition.
  6. New Mexico’s Experience.
  7. Prohibition & Repeal in Kentucky.
  8. Prohibition and Repeal in New York State.
  9. Ratification of Constitutional Amendments.
  10. Ratification of Constitutional Amendments.
  11. Here’s What Prohibition Repeal Looked Like in NYC.
  12. Alcohol Prohibition.
  13. Sournia, J.-C. A History of Alcoholism. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1990, p. 149.
  14. Eighteenth Amendment.
  15. Mendelson, H. and Mello, N.K. Alcohol. Boston, MA: Little, Brown., 1985, p. 94.
  16. Blocker, J.S., et al. Alcohol and Temperance. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003, p. xliii.
  17. Repeal of Prohibition.!/amendments/21/essays/183/repeal-of-prohibition
  18. Women: W.C.T.U. Time, June 14, 1937.
  19. Gately, p. 366.
  20. Repeal of Prohibition, ibid.
  21. Rostow, E. V. Recent proposals for federal legislation controlling the use of liquor. Q J Stud Alco., 1942, 3, 230-235. Pp. 230-231.
  22. Deadlier than bullets. Time, Sept 25, 1950.
  23. Prohibition Candidates.
  24. Alcohol Prohibition.
  25. Prohibition Party History.
  26. Ledermann, S. Alcool, alcoolisme, alcoolisation. Econ et Social. Paris: Presses Scientifiques de France, 1956.
  27. Prohibition Party History.
  28. Will-Weber, Mark. Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2014, p.xvi.
  29. Sinclair. Prohibition. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1962.
  30. American Council on Alcohol Problems.
  31. Repeal of Prohibition, ibid.
  32. _________________, ibid.
  33. Prohibition.
  34. The History of Kansas Liquor Laws.
  35. Ibid..
  36. Beato, Greg. Draft dodgers. For DIY brewers, Prohibition lasted until 1978. Reason, March, 2009. Reason website /archives/2009/02/24/draft-dodgers
  37. History of MADD.
  38. Bresnahan, S. MADD struggles to remain relevant. Washington Times, August 6, 2002, B1-2.
  39. A Brief Review of Alcoholic Beverages in Kansas.
  40. Miller, H. Soft drink has no wine, but plenty of cheer. Advertising Age, 1992, 63(22), 3-4.
  41. Schulte, G., et al. Consideration of driver home county prohibition and alcohol-related vehicle crashes. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 1993, 35(5), 641-648.
  42. Winn, R. and Giacopassi, D. Effects of county-level alcohol prohibition on motor vehicle accidents. Soc Sci Q., 1993, 74, 783-792.
  43. History of American Beer.
  44. Ibid.
  45. Repeal of Prohibition, ibid.
  46. Prohibition Party History.
  47. Grahholm v. Heald.
  48. Calif. step closer to AWOL ban. AIM Digest, 2005, 14(4), 4.
  49. McBeth, J. Alcohol experts call for revival of temperance. The Sunday Times (Scotland), January 8, 2005.
  50. Conlin, M., et al. The effect of alcohol prohibition on illicit-drug-related crimes. J Law Econ., 2005, XLVIII, 215-231.
  51. Combs, H. Jason. The wet-dry issue in Arkansas. The Pennsylvania Geographer, 2005, 43(2), 66-94.
  52. Sayre, C. Absinthe is back! Time, Nov 29, 2007.
  53. Amethyst Iniative Receives 2008 Millstone Award. WCTU website.
  54. Alcohol Prohibition.
  55. CNN/ORC Poll.
  56. Blakemore, A.W. The Volstead Act Annotated. Albany, NY: M. Bender, 1927.
  57. Lubensdorf, B. Local Alcohol-Prohibition Law May Lead to Less Liquor, But More Meth. Wall Street J website, January 4, 2015.
  58. Three Tier or Free Trade?
  59. Mendelson and Mello, ibid.
  60. Kansas to get legal liquor, ending bootlegging business. The Free Lance-Star, July 18, 1949, p. 3.
  61. Nelson, D. Moonshiners, Bootleggers, & Rumrunners. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks, 1995.