Happy Days Are Here Again: Prohibition Repealed This Day In 1933

After thirteen “dry” years, on this day in history in 1933, the American national experiment with Temperance came to an end when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus repealing the 18th Amendment that had prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the United States.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Kate Greenaway Collection

The production of wine and alcoholic beverages dates back to colonial times and the consumption of liquor remained a popular American pastime ever since.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Kate Greenaway Collection

But from its humble beginnings in the early nineteenth century, the Temperance Movement grew by the early twentieth century into a powerful political force capable of convincing several states to outlaw alcohol within their borders. In the Southern states, the Ku Klux Klan threw their support behind Prohibition, motivated by fears of the supposed excessive drinking habits of Catholic Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants.


Image courtesy of: http://usslave.blogspot.com/2011/10/kkk-and-wctu-partners-in-prohibition.html

In January 1919, a three-fourths majority of states ratified the 18th Amendment, and on October 28, 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act to enforce Prohibition over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Robert J. Young

Given the popularity of drinking, Prohibition proved to be a difficult law to enforce. Ordinary citizens showed their disdain for the law by hoarding alcohol in their cellars, or attending illegal “speakeasies.”


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

For the well-to-do, there was also the option of traveling outside of U.S. jurisdiction to vacation destinations like Cuba, where the rum still flowed like water.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Promised Gift

With the passage of Prohibition in the U.S., many big city barmen packed up shop and moved to Havana, adding to the proliferation of thousands of bars catering to “thirsty” American tourists.




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Promised Gifts

Havana Widows, a Hollywood comedy starring Joan Blondell and released in the same year that Prohibition was repealed, played up the theme of American millionaires and gold-diggers carousing and living it up in Cuba.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Promised Gift

Prohibition also created opportunities in the United States for unscrupulous bootleggers and gangsters to make overnight fortunes by producing and selling overpriced bathtub gin and moonshine, or by importing the “good stuff” from Canada and Cuba. Clashes with competitors and collusion with corrupt police forces added to the violence of the “Roaring Twenties.”


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

By the early 1930s, many Americans already experiencing the economic woes of the Great Depression tired of the experiment in Prohibition, and the federal government anticipated the much-needed boon for business and tax revenues that would accrue from making liquor legal again.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Just as the 1929 song “Happy Days Are Here Again” was picked up by and used as the presidential campaign theme song for Franklin D. Roosevelt at the 1932 Democratic Convention, it also became associated with the repeal of Prohibition soon after his inauguration, when spirits flowed freely once more in America.


~ by "The Chief" on December 5, 2017.

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