Prohibition (1920 - 1933) was a period of American history in which the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol was illegal. The 18th Amendment (which created Prohibition) was ratified on January 16, 1919 and was the first amendment to address a social issue. It later became the first and only amendment to be repealed, when the 21st Amendment ended "The Noble Experiment" on December 6, 1933.
The Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library specializing in early American history and founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin. Ardent Spirits is an online exhibit about the origins of the American temperance movement. "When Philadelphian Dr. Benjamin Rush published his 'moral thermometer' in the late 18th century, he set the American temperance movement into motion. The thermometer was a visual depiction of the horrors that awaited drunkards, and it placed both moderate drinkers and abstainers on the moral high ground."
This Library of Congress mini-site includes links to seven primary source documents, and an overview of the temperance movement. The source documents include a WPA interview with Samuel D. Mobley, a retired cotton broker. About prohibition, he responded, "I have noticed that every attempt to legislate morals into the people has resulted in disaster. I will call your attention to the fact that you and I remember when we had the old barroom system, the State dispensary system prohibition, and the present retail liquor shops. No system is perfect, but the worst of all was the prohibition law."
The Volstead Act was federal legislation that became law on October 28, 1919, specifying how the 18th Amendment would be enforced. This archive includes links to both the Volstead Act and the text of the 18th and 21st Amendments. Using these original sources, students can answer questions posed in the last paragraph. Why did this social experiment not work? What can we learn from Prohibition? How can we compare it to the modern war on drugs?
The Ohio State University Department of History has created my pick-of-the-week site. Illustrated with cartoons, photos and logos of the times, the site is divided into eleven chapters. Start with Why Prohibition? to learn about the social movement that lead to Prohibition, including a table charting per capita consumption of alcoholic spirits from 1850 to 1983. Another must-visit click is the collection of Prohibition Party cartoons.
"Prohibition is a three-part, five-and-a-half-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the entire era it encompassed." This companion site contains many clips from the series, as well as a photo gallery, short bios of key players (including bootleggers and gangsters), and a handful of excellent articles.