• Smithsonian Channel
    Drinks, Crime and Prohibition

    S1 E1 Flappers and Bootleggers

    After decades of decrying liquor and its corrosive impact on American culture, the Prohibition Party got their wish in 1919 when the 18th Amendment took effect, banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol. The ban was almost unenforceable from day one. The "Lost Generation" flocked to speakeasies, moonshine was made at home, corruption infected every level of the government, and gangsters grew in wealth and power. Witness the early days of Prohibition and the violent events that sent it careening towards its final days.

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Drinks, Crime and Prohibition
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The legacy of Prohibition is one of failure. Instead of making a more sober America, it weakened the nation's respect for the rule of law, enabled the expansion of organized crime, and turned city streets into battlefields. But it was also an era of great consequence, prompting federal criminal law enforcement and the expansion of the U.S. prison system. Revisit this defining moment in American history to see how it shaped the course of the 20th century and how its impact still reverberates to this day.
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