Was Prohibition Bound To Fail? - History Essay Example

Source A has been produced from a history book made in 1973 - Was Prohibition Bound To Fail? introduction. Source B was also a history book produced in 1979. Both of these sources were produced a long time after Prohibition came about in the 1920’s. This shows that these sources may not be reliable. Since there is a good chance the people who published these books weren’t around at the time. But if even if they had of been there they were probably very young and their memory wouldn’t be sufficient enough. So the people who wrote these history books would most likely of got there information from other places. Or used other history books to get information for their own. So there is a pretty good chance that they could have been for or against Prohibition.

Source A is the lead up to the Prohibition. Source A says that before 1920, the time of the Prohibition. There were already 23 states that were faced with the banning of alcohol. Source B however, looks at groups that wanted the ban of alcohol like, ‘anti saloon league’. Source B goes into some detail about the organisation’s jobs! It talks about how the ‘Anti Saloon League’ led all these organisations to congress of the Unites States to push for a ban of alcohol. Source A also mentions the influence in which the Anti Saloon League had upon the ban of alcohol. Source then goes on to mention other aspects that lead up to the Prohibition. Which was reserving grain for American Troops during World War One? Which were a problem and the American people felt it more important to feed their troops than to make alcohol, which wasn’t as important. Plus another added bonus was that manufacturing breweries were also known to be German. So since there was a war going on against Germany there was an anti-German thing creeping up.


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Which also pushed the lead up to the Prohibition? Source A’s second paragraph describes the consequences of the Prohibition and that was that it created a massive criminal boom in America which caused problems for the law. Source B ends by showing how the first prohibition officer appointed 1500 agents and how 30,000 illegal bars or speakeasies were in New York by 1928. It goes on about how Al Capone a well known gangster around those times and how he made the Prohibition into a criminal business. Looking over at Source A again I come to realise that it’s more of opinion rather than fact. So it’s pretty much based on rough ideas, statistics or theories! It does mention the key points which lead up to the Prohibition. The second paragraph focuses its ideas on the consequences of the Prohibition.

By reading the last paragraph on Source A I’ve come to the conclusion that Source A doesn’t completely agree with Prohibition but it more disagrees with Prohibition. Source B paints its own picture, like Source an on Prohibition. It describes how groups who were against alcohol came together and went to congress for the ban of alcohol. Plus Source B uses additional facts and has more factual dates which would make the source more believable. Source B paints a vivid picture on the consequences, “by 1938 there were more than 30,000 speakeasies in New York”, but it doesn’t go into any detail. It just cuts off there. Source B doesn’t really associate Prohibition with crime, I can’t really see anything in there that does. The word “violent” is the only thing that gets close, but I think in the long run Source A is supplying one side to the argument and Source B is supplying the other side to the argument. So to finalise this answer Source A is against it and outlines it as a Crusade! And Great Evil whereas Source B uses a lot of factual information about the Prohibition and is more for it than against.


Sources C and D are both in support of Prohibition. Source C was a poster published in 1910. The artist has produced the posters from the point of view from someone supporting the anti-saloon.

Source c describes how a man probably a father of a family would go into the saloon and spends his weekly wages on alcohol, the money which may have gone on providing his family with food and clothing, which is also trying to say that alcohol is a bad influence and could be a main cause for poverty. Source d agrees to the point made about the weekly wage being spent on alcohol when it could have been put to use for his family. Source d shows a little child saying ‘our shoes and stockings and food are in the saloon too, and they’ll ever come out.’

Both source c and d both agree on the point made in source c, ‘the poor man’s club’ the man would go in for a drink after work, and end up spending more than he expected to, and then going home to his wife and kids, no money left over to provide for them for that week.

In conclusion source c and d both agree on Prohibition and the causes of it. Both source c and d were published around the same time, so they both would have had the same sort of evidence. Both source c and d both produced by the anti-saloon league as they both share the same ideas as the anti-saloon league, and therefore would have been extremely biased towards the prohibition.


Source E and F both give evidence about Prohibition. Although Source E is more reliable evidence as it was written in 1932 when Prohibition was well in affect. So it would be more reliable as it would show what was happening around the time of the actual Prohibition. Source F however was written by the first Prohibition Commissioner who said this in 1920. So this isn’t very reliable as although the law was passed in 1917 for Prohibition. The actual law didn’t come into affect until 1920 itself. So the actual commissioner would say this to be making his position strong.

He wants to make a positive impression to everyone about the Prohibition and about his job in enforcing the Prohibition itself. However source F does show how the Prohibition Commissioner wanted things to be but things went completely the other way. For a while, it was believed that Prohibition was working. Lots of people thought that the it would have a good effect on the country and the economy. It had reached new heights for gangs as they were now in control of many cities. This was mainly because the law enforcement had turned corrupt and took bribes. Looking back at sources E and F, to judge their reliability we really have to consider when they were written and just exactly who by.

Source E was written by a wealthy industrialist called, John D. Rockefeller J.r around 1932. This letter was written when Prohibition had well been started and infact it was only a year before the Prohibition ended. This means that Prohibition wasn’t working at this time, and further proves my point that source E is more reliable evidence than Source F.


Source G is a table showing the activities of the Federal government agents enforcing prohibition from 1921-1929. The table shows all the illegal stills and gallons of spirits which were seized during the beginning, the middle and end of the prohibition. Source H is another table full with statistics however these statistics show the number of arrests for drinking related offences from 1920 to 1925 and the total arrests for that year. These statistics were published by the city of Philadelphia Police Department. The table includes drink, drunk drivers and drunk & disorderly related arrests.

Source G shows the amount of illegal stills and spirits that have been seized during 1921, 1925 and 1929. The amount of illegal stills seized in 1921 was 9,746. In 1925 there was an increase to 12,023 and in 1929 it rose again to 15,794. This shows that there was increase over the years of illegal stills seized. This shows that Prohibition wasn’t successful as in a space of eight years. The amount of gallons of spirits seized in 1921 was 414,000. In 1925 there was a rapid increase to 11,030,000 and in 1929 to 11,860,000. This doesn’t show that the police were stamping down on Prohibition. It does, but also it shows that there was a lot more places around, what the statistics doesn’t show is that amount of gallons of spirits that wasn’t seized.

Source H shows the number of arrests which was related to drunk drivers, drunken person(s) and disorderly conduct in 1920, 1923 through to 1925. In 1920 14,313 people were arrested because of being drunk. In 1923 it then rose to 45,226 and in 1925 to 51,361. In 1920 no drunk driver were arrested, where as in 1923 645 people were and when it came to 1925 there was a total of 820. In 1920 the total number of arrests for drink related criminal activities were 20,410. In 1923 there were a total of 52,947 and then in 1925 the total came to 57,703.

The purpose of publishing these statistics was a use of propaganda used to attempt to show that the government were stamping down on Alcohol and Prohibition was succeeding. What these statistics didn’t show was just exactly how many people they didn’t stop! Source G shows the amount of gallons seized, but unfortunately it doesn’t mention how many stills there were out there at the time. Same with the stills. It really doesn’t matter how many stills there were at the time. Source shows there was an increase in alcohol seized over the eight years. This shows that federal agents were infact doing there job, but an increase in spirits in the United States.

Therefore Source G does not prove that prohibition was successful. Source H are statistics published by the Philadelphian Police Department, which shows that they are from Philadelphia. Yet again the statistics show an increase over time. Source H only mentions drinks related statistics not those of for example of closing down stills. Police at that point in time were most likely bribed just so they’d look the other way. Take the statistic about drunk drivers in 1921 was 0. These state as in Source G that there was an increase in alcohol related crime, which also shows that people were still drinking despite there, was a prohibition law in effect. Therefore Source H does not prove that prohibition was successful, quite the opposite when studied.

Both sources G & H show an increase in statistics of incidents which go against Prohibition. With this I make the conclusion that the reason for these increases is the increase of alcohol; because of this it shows that Prohibition wasn’t successful, and Sources G & H proves that.


Source I is a poster. On it is a cartoon which is most likely published in a newspaper or a magazine or something which was entitles “The National Gesture”. It was published from the time that prohibition was in force. It has a row of men with their right hand open behind their back. It has a long line of men which goes from a Prohibition Agent, to a judge and politician. It seems endless. This shows that lots of law enforcement officers were willing to take bribes to turn a blind eye on what was going on. Source J was a policeman talking about Chicago in the 1920s. He is describing the effect that the prohibition itself actually had on his work. The corruption was mentioned and he says that it pretty much goes on all the time.

Source I is trying to put the point across that people from high positions like the prohibition agents right down to clerks were all taking bribes. This was indicated by there hands behinds their backs stuck out so you drop them money to keep quiet and their backs turned as if they didn’t see it happen. The title is also significant to the source. “The National Gesture” also shows that this was happening nationally. So this meant that all over the United States there was corruption.

In Source J the policeman describes that’s the saloon keepers would give him and other officers free drinks. He then goes on to talk about how corrupt the actual police force was. If he tried to enforce the law then his superiors would get involved and stop him. He was also given an envelope with money inside. This also would have been bribery.

Source I is saying that the whole of the United States was full of corruption where as Source J is saying and stating the fact that the corruption was in Chicago and not the entire United States. So in conclusion, Source I is showing that the whole of the United States is corrupt and Source J is saying that Chicago is. So Source I maybe biased as it is implicating the entire United States is but it Chicago is in America. So it is saying that Chicago is also corrupt. So it agrees with Source J but Source I is biased because looking at other sources it seems to be the more populated cities, i.e. Chicago, New York & Philadelphia that are corrupt and the less populated places aren’t as likely to of been corrupt and not following the law.


Not all the sources show that the failure of the Prohibition was inevitable. Source states the factors in which caused the Prohibition, although it doesn’t suggest that the failure of the prohibition was inevitable. It suggest a view that people thought that in the beginning everyone thought Prohibition would work, but this was before it started. It also states that there was indeed a criminal boom because of the ban of alcohol. Unfortunately for the source though, it doesn’t give any reason as to why this happened. Plus it doesn’t even suggest any doubt that the Prohibition itself was bound to fail.

Source B has a similar view to source A, yet it does not suggest prohibition was bound to fail before it started; but it does touch on the public demand or alcohol, it also includes an Al Capone quote, “all I do is supply a public demand”.

Source C and D show alcohol as a bad thing but clearly give a view which suggests that prohibition itself was bound to fail. If was willing to waste his money which could have been used to spend on clothing and food for his family then he would most definitely break the law for one. What do you think the man cares more about, his family or the law? His family obviously!

Source E is like Source A. It shows an optimistic viewpoint that prohibition would work; it suggests that the people of the USA were all law breakers. This also suggests that the people opposed the idea of prohibition and supports that the failure of the Prohibition was yet again a failure.

Source F is an account from a Prohibition officer; this view is biased but shows that he believes in the Prohibition and he believes he can uphold the law. Sources G and H are statistics which were taken after the Prohibition had been introduced to the USA. The figures show that the persistence of offenders. This supports the fact that Prohibition was bound to fail. If you looked at it the way they were intended when published, you could say that the prohibition officers were cracking down on alcohol and upholding the law but the way I’ve interpreted the sources it shows who they stopped, but not who they haven’t! It also shows that there is a general increase of offenders in later years which is making the crime rate go up, which is the main reason that prohibition failed.

Source I also agrees that Prohibition was bound to fail, it shows people who were meant to upholding this law of no alcohol taking bribes and keeping their backs turned. Source J also agrees that the prohibition would fail, the policeman in the source had probably taken bribes himself. But this is obviously something he may not have admitted to. At least not at the time anyway. So in conclusion 6 out of 10 of these sources suggest that prohibition was bound to fail. So overall that’s 60% so that’s more than 50/50 either way, so these sources show that Prohibition itself was inevitable due to the amount of corruption and the fact that the society itself was willing to risk their own families to pay for alcohol, they wouldn’t care for what the law says if they want a drink that badly!

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