What in American's History Could Lead to Prohibition?
As a History student, I was taught to look at the factors that caused an event in history to unfold. For example, one cannot study the American Revolution without studying the causes that led to the anger of the colonists and their reasons to revolt against England. The same is true for prohibition. To truly understand how alcohol could become such a problem that, members of a society would want to ban it, it is important to look at alcohol's history in society.
In the 1600 and 1700's, there were very few things available to drink. One did not want to take a lot of chances with the water and the unpasteurized milk of the time. Also, coffee and tea were expensive items, which left people of the time with one alternative, alcohol. This kind of lifestyle led to some alarming statistics on the average American's use of alcohol. By the 1820's the average American was drinking 7 gallons of pure alcohol. This is the equivalent of:
- 70 gallons of beer, or
- 39 gallons of wine, or
- 15.5 gallons of distilled liquor
With these alarming figures, several citizens, mostly ministers and physicians, began to worry about alcohol use in the lives of Americans. They argued that "drinking alcohol damaged people's health and moral behavior and promoted poverty."
To help control the use of alcohol, reformers began a campaign teaching temperance. Temperance is described as "the reduction or elimination of the use of alcoholic beverages." The reformers were successful in their quest. In the 1820's - 1830's the average alcohol intake was 3 gallons of pure alcohol, down from 7. However, as time went on, the reformers believed that alcohol had addictive properties. This new discovery changed the reformers' sights from reducing drinking to ending it. Their message was accepted by almost a dozen states during the 1850's, with Maine leading the cause and establishing itself as a "dry state" in 1851.
However, as the reformers picked up steam, it would soon be fleeting. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, most of America's attention was taken away from the evils of alcohol and thrust upon the war at hand. However, a few years after the war had ended; the Prohibition Party was formed in 1869. The Prohibition Party was just a stepping stone for things to come, as you will see in the next page.
Check out the History of Alcohol Prohibition Including Information about the 1600's, 1700's, 1800's, and 1900's!
The History of Alcohol in America