Prohibition & the Volstead Act
Prohibition is shorthand for this nation's thirteen-year misadventure in legislating abstinence from alcohol. The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution (1920-1933) prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import, or export of alcoholic beverages. Upon ratification of the amendment by the states, Congress voted its approval in October 1919, and enacted it into law as the National Prohibition Act of 1920. Drafting of the amendment and of the bill was the work, in large part, of Wayne Wheeler, the legislative lawyer of the Anti-Saloon League. The duty to sponsor the bill before Congress fell to the chair of the Judiciary Committee, Andrew J. Volstead, U.S. Representative from the Minnesota 7th Congressional District.
Among the groups fighting to ban consumption of alcohol were the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Anti-Saloon League. Their success and anti-German sentiment after World War I led to the passage of the National Prohibition Act. It put legal brewers out of business and opened the nation's door to unintended consequences: bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, rackets, gangsters, and organized crime.
Get Started With Secondary Sources
- American Temperance Movements: Cycles of Reform, by
Jack S. Blocker, Jr.
Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.
MHS call number: Reading Room HV 5229 .B55 1989.
- The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition,
by Herbert Asbury.
Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1950.
MHS call number: HV 5089 .A74.
- How Dry We Were: Prohibition Revisited, by Henry Walsh
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, .
MHS call number: HV 5089 .L4.
- The Long Thirst: Prohibition in America, 1920-1933,
by Thomas M. Coffey.
New York: Norton, .
MHS call number: HV 5089 .C66.
- The Passage of the Volstead Act: A Study of the Legislative
Process, by Edward H. Vraalstad.
B.A. thesis (Lawrence College), 1962.
MHS call number: HV 5089 .V8.
- Prohibition and the Progressive Movement, 1900-1920,
by James H. Timberlake.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963.
MHS call number: HV 5089 .T5.
- Prohibition in Minnesota, by Margaret Murray.
MHS call number: HV 5297.M6 M82.
- "Volstead and Prohibition: A Roaring ’20s Memoir,"
by Helen Warren Pfleger.
In Ramsey County History, vol. 12, no. 1 (spring/summer 1975).
MHS call number: Reading Room F 612 .R22 R3 v.12:1.
- Andrew J. Volstead and Family Papers, 1868-1955.
This archival collection (1868-1955) consists largely of political materials of Volstead, a Granite Falls lawyer and Republican congressman (1903-1922). Much of the correspondence is dated 1920 to 1922 and concerns Prohibition, the National Prohibition Act of 1919 (the Volstead Act), and Volstead's 1922 re-election campaign; there are also copies of Volstead's speeches on Prohibition.
MHS call number: P12; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks for a detailed list of boxes (there are 7 boxes), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
- Prohibition Party Records.
This archival collection (1876-1919) contains financial reports (1888-1919); minutes and memoranda of meetings and conventions (1895-1918), including Instructions for block captains, information on persons who contributed to the party, and the amounts contributed; letters soliciting support and donations; and other records of the Prohibition Party's administrative organization in Minnesota.
MHS call number: See the green Manuscripts Alpha Notebooks—filed alphabetically under Prohibition Party—for a detailed list and the locator number (there is 1 box), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
- Light Wine and Beer and Prohibition Enforcement, address
of A.J. Volstead.
Washington, D.C.: [s.n.], 1922.
MHS call number: HV 5089 .V644 1922.
- Minneapolis Star
- Minneapolis Tribune
- St. Paul Dispatch
- St. Paul Pioneer Press
- Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
- Check the library catalog for other materials.