Posted in American History, essay, history, Politics

The Amendments: Eighteen

This amendment is a special amendment.  This is the only amendment that has been fully repealed and not not just edited to include more coverage.  The Eighteenth Amendment has gone down in history known as Prohibition.

It was passed by congress in 1917 and ratified two years later in 1919.  It was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. So it only lasted 15 years of actual enforcement.


After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.


The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.


This amendment made it illegal to make, sell, or transport alcohol.  It even outlawed exports and imports.  Not that really stopped anyone.  It began a new cultures of speakeasies and people hiding alcohol bottles in their bathrooms.  They exploited the loophole that it wasn’t illegal to drink – just to buy, sell or transport it anywhere.

This law is a little silly because its almost always failed.  Several states over the years previous had tried their own prohibition laws and found them to be widely unpopular and later repealed them.  Some states didn’t even try to enforce this amendment.  Other laws created loopholes to selling alcohol as medicine, or religious purposes.  Low-Alcohol content drinks were also legal.  While overall drinking fell by quite a bit, it didn’t really work.

There were some downsides to sidestepping the law, though and homemade alcohol could cause physical problems depending on the materials used and sometimes how it was made.

There are still places in the US that are ‘dry’ (alcohol free).  Some states have strict rules about alcohol sales.  Pennsylvania for example requires the distributer to have a license to sell beers and alcoholic drinks.  All the higher content alcohols, like liqueurs, spirits and wines, are sold in a government run store.

Ohio on the other hand allows you to buy your beer at the local convenience store.

My grandparents actually lived in a town that was a semi-dry town till a few years ago.  All alcohol sales were done by beer distributors and the Wine & Spirits store.  The law was overturned recently and it has one bar now, which had to reinvent itself as a bar & grille after a year or so.

On another note, you will notice this amendment was given a 7 year ratification timeline.  I believe it is the first amendment to be given a deadline.

More reading:

History.Com:  Ten Thhings You Should Know About Prohibition

Constitution Center:  American Spirits: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition

I09: Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition 


A thirty-something Graphic Designer and writer who likes to blog about books, movies and History.

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