When Congress passed the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol, supporters were convinced it would create a stronger, more moral nation. Instead, it ushered in an era of corruption and lawlessness, here brought to life with a fast-paced, gripping narrative and period photographs.
The story opens dramatically in 1929 with the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the murder of seven Chicago men that epitomized the gangland violence that became a routine by-product of bootlegging. Blumenthal then chronicles the rise of the temperance movement in the late 1800s, the passage of and life under Prohibition and its repeal in 1933. The story is populated with colorful and notorious characters, such as the hatchet-wielding Carry Nation, gangster Al Capone and Morris Sheppard, the golden-tongued senator and champion of Prohibition. Drawing from period newspaper accounts, personal anecdotes and other primary sources, the author puts a human face on history, chronicling how parents brewed booze in their bathtubs and children smuggled the hooch. Blumenthal acknowledges that Prohibition was successful in some notable ways: Arrests for public intoxication declined as did alcohol-related diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver. Whatever positive outcomes there were, however, were eclipsed by the widespread corruption and violence of bootlegging.
An informative, insightful account of a fascinating period of American history. (glossary, bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)