Speakeasies. Bootlegging. Al Capone. If you know anything about Prohibition then you’re no stranger to these terms. The nearly-14-year federal ban on booze is common knowledge to most, but there are some interesting facts about life during Prohibition that even history buffs may not know. Although it’s odd to imagine a time when you couldn’t indulge in your favorite drink, these surprising Prohibition facts are even more hard to believe.
Drinking alcohol was actually legal during Prohibition
You read that right. The act of consuming liquor was not what the 18th Amendment banned. Instead it was against the “manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors” or transferring money for liquor that got people in hot water. You could drink all you want but the way you obtained your alcohol was probably illegal.
Bathtub gin was a killer recipe
Bathtub gin, aka moonshine, was offered during Prohibition but the often unsanitary conditions left many people sick. In fact, the government was said to have poisoned industrial alcohol that was being sold by bootleggers in order to “scare people into sobriety.” The result was an estimated 10,000 deaths.
One state never bothered to follow the rules
Maryland was a state that never enforced the law when it came to Prohibition. At the time, Maryland Senator William Cabell Bruce admitted, “National Prohibition went into legal effect upward of six years ago, but it can be truly said that, except to a highly qualified extent, it has never gone into practical effect at all.” Other states eventually followed Maryland’s lead.
Legal loopholes existed for people to continue drinking
The Volstead Act made it possible for doctors to offer “medicinal whiskey” for a variety of ailments. Sacramental wine was also allowed for religious purposes. Oh, and if you had an abundant liquor cabinet already at home? Liquor leftovers were permitted before the amendment went into effect.
“Dive bars” were called Blind Pigs
Some establishments during Prohibition would charge patrons for a show in exchange for a drink. For example, a 19th-century tavern in Maine kept a blind pig in the backroom and the owner sold tickets to see it along with a side of rum. This was the earliest term used to describe what we know refer to as a “dive bar.”
Prohibition inspired booze cruises
During Prohibition, if you were lucky enough to live on a coast you could hop aboard a cruise ship, travel around and down as much alcohol as you wanted.
The only amendment to be repealed
Prohibition is the only amendment to the Constitution to have ever been repealed. In 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified effectively putting Prohibition in place. By 1933, lawmakers said “whoops, never mind” and repealed Prohibition with the 21st Amendment. It’s the first time in U.S. history lawmakers have ever backtracked an item in the Constitution.
Utah ended Prohibition
Say what? On Dec. 5, 1933, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, which was the last state needed to officially write it into the Constitution. The first state to do so? Michigan.
It took Mississippi 33 years to repeal Prohibition
Even though Prohibition was repealed in 1933, you couldn’t legally buy a drink in Mississippi until 1966. In fact, the Magnolia State instituted its own Prohibition clear back in 1908 which means it took 58 years to overturn a ban on booze sales. Even today, you can still find dry counties across the state.
The Prohibition Party mascot was the camel
When you think of the perfect symbol for not drinking, does a camel come to mind? Prohibition was actually represented by a party much like we have Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have the elephant and Democrats have the donkey. Not to be outdone by either group, the Prohibition Party chose a camel to represent them.
Alcohol claims were often bizarre and unbelievable
Odd beliefs and misinformation were common among pro-Prohibition supporters. The most bizarre and unbelievable claims to date are that alcohol turns your blood to water, wine was made with cockroaches, your brain would catch fire by drinking, your liver could grow to 25 lbs., and last but not least, unborn children could be harmed merely by second-hand smelling of alcohol.