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Week 11 Worksheet

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Paul Kooistra, “Criminals As Heroes: Linking Symbol To Structure”
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1. How does the media affect the idea of a “social bandit?” How did the changes in technology aid in the making of a social bandit? [Kooistra reading]

2. Kooistra argues that social bandits appear under certain conditions – widespread depression or national crises – and the heroic narrative emerges when a large number of people feel “outside the law” or feel the law unjust. Do you agree with this? Why or why not? Can you apply this theory to events in our time? (Current event?)

3. What was actually outlawed with the 18th Amendment/Volstead Act? Why do you think that the law/amendment did not outlaw consumption of alcohol?

4. Prohibition is often referred to as “The Great Social Experiment.” Why do you think that is?

5. What were some of the arguments that were used for prohibition? Was there a religious/ethnic consideration to outlawing alcohol? Do you think prohibition was targeted for urban or rural environments? Why?




In 1919, states ratified the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which banned the sale, transport, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors

Went into effect on January 17, 1920

Volstead Act

Provided for the enforcement of the amendment and defined intoxicating liquors

Origins of Temperance

Americans consumed a tremendous amount of alcohol in the early nineteenth century

Evangelical revivalism of the Second Great Awakening prompted many Americans to see alcohol as a social problem by the 1820s

Thought alcohol consumption was a sin that needed to be eliminated

Temperance societies formed in most American cities

Temperance advocates seldom called for legal bans on alcohol, at least initially

Temperance Pledges

Most early temperance advocates advocated the use of moral suasion to convince people to abstain

Congregants of evangelical churches were encouraged to sign temperance pledges in which they promised to abstain completely from drink

State-Level Prohibition

Over time, some temperance advocates complemented their moral suasion efforts with efforts to ban alcohol legally

1851: Maine became the first state to ban the sale of manufacture of alcohol except for medicinal purposes

12 states had enacted similar bans by 1855

1856: Irishmen in Maine riot over law; law was eventually repealed

Temperance fell from prominence as a social issue during the Civil War

Resurrection of Temperance

Temperance rose to prominence again in the 1870s

Beer brewing became more corporatized and large-scale, which played into Progressives’ fears of vice trusts

Because beer manufacturers sponsored saloons, saloons typically only served one type of beer

Increased the number of saloons

Centrality of Taverns

Taverns had always been important social centers, but they rose in prominence even more in the late 19th century

Taverns were a particularly important social center for immigrant men

Taverns in many cities were also tied in with political machines

Machine bosses often ran taverns or otherwise used them as organizing bases

Men could go to taverns to find work

Prohibition Propaganda

Attacking saloons and taverns became part and parcel of a broader Progressive War on political machines

Also part of a broader project to control immigrants, whom many Americans believed were prone to criminality and violence

Temperance as A Women’s Issue

“The Bottle”

Women were major advocates of temperance and prohibition

Temperance and prohibition were deeply tied to the woman suffrage and women’s rights movements

Efforts to ban alcohol were often justified in terms of protecting women and children

Many men squandered their earnings in saloons or became violent when they drank

Temperance As A women’s Issue

Temperance as a Family Issue


Women’s Christian Temperance Union was founded in 1873 to advocate for temperance, prohibition, and the alleviation of various social ills

Frances Everett Willard, a woman suffrage advocate, popularized it

Organization cast temperance very much as a women’s issue and used it to advocate for woman suffrage

Suffrage would aid women in making the world more moral

Rise of Prohibition

Anti-Saloon League founded in 1893

The saloon league, which advocated for prohibition, was supported by John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie

Tied to concerns about workforce productivity

Advocacy of the WCTU, Anti-Saloon league, and other organizations prompted many states to pass prohibitions on alcohol

World War I

During World War I, the federal government got into the alcohol control business to preserve grain

Banned any beverage over 2.75% alcohol

Association of beer with Germans aided prohibition efforts

Advocates of prohibition renamed beer “Kaiser brew”

Prohibition Begins

Prohibition and Crime

Contrary to popular belief, prohibition did not lead to an outbreak of crime (at least not generally), nor did it fail completely

Drinking decreased; deaths associated with alcoholism fell dramatically

Public drunkenness decreased

Most crime rates remained steady

High murder rates were predominantly associated with the rise of the automobile, which enabled people to commit more daring acts of armed robbery

Prohibition and Crime

While prohibition did not cause a crime wave, it did raise the rates of certain crimes

By making the sale, manufacture, and transport of alcohol illegal, prohibition dramatically expanded the category of crime

Increased criminality resulted

While drinking went down overall, it did not stop being a popular past time amongst Americans, and there were always people willing to meet the demand for drink


There were far too few prohibition agents to enforce prohibition completely, and speakeasies became common in many American cities

New York was estimated to have 20,000 by 1927


Both men and women patronized speakeasies, which was a change from earlier saloons

Cocktails originated in the 1920s as people tried to conceal the taste of bootleg liquor and bathtub gin

U.S. efforts to make industrial alcohol undrinkable by corrupting it with methanol lead to tens of thousands of poisoning deaths

Prohibition and Law

Many American argued that Prohibition decreased respect for the law by criminalizing something so minor and so popular as drinking

Term “scofflaw” originated during this time

Prohibition also increased the scale of organized crime

Prohibition and the Rise of Organized Crime


Perceptions of High Crime

Many contemporary people believed that crime rates skyrocketed during Prohibition

They didn’t

Most of people were probably basing that impression on one of two things:

The perception that Prohibition made many people into criminals and decreased respect for the law

The fact that organized crime and the violence associated with it became much more visible


Though Prohibition reduced drinking overall, many Americans continued to drink

New social establishments that catered to drinkers formed in many cities

New York was estimated to have 20,000 speakeasies by 1927


Both men and women patronized speakeasies, which was a change from earlier saloons

Cocktails originated in the 1920s as people tried to conceal the taste of bootleg liquor and bathtub gin

U.S. efforts to make industrial alcohol undrinkable by corrupting it with methanol lead to tens of thousands of poisoning deaths

Disregard for prohibition

Many people also turned to home brewing

Manufacturers sold products that could easily be manufactured into beer or wine

“I am convicted that a vast array of lawbreakers has been recruited and financed on a colossal scale; that many of our best citizens, piqued at what they regarded as an infringement of their private rights, have openly and unabashedly disregarded the Eighteenth Amendment; that as an inevitable result respect for all law has been greatly lessened; that crime has increased to an unprecedented degree-I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe.” –John D. Rockefeller

Prohibition and Law

Many American argued that Prohibition decreased respect for the law by criminalizing something so minor and so popular as drinking

Term “scofflaw” originated during this time

Prohibition also increased the scale of organized crime

Enforcement of Prohibition

Responsibility for prohibition enforcement were divided between the federal, state, and local governments

This system did not work well

State governments often hoped the Federal government would assume primary responsibility, and vice versa

Many local authorities refused to enforce prohibition to any great extent, and some states did not want to fund enforcement because it was unpopular

Federal prohibition agents operating under the Department of Internal Revenue could sometimes be dedicated, but they were often corrupt in the early years

Enforcement of Prohibition

After 1927, Prohibition enforcement became an independent bureau under the Treasury

Between July of 1926 and April of 1930, John Pennington, a Pittsburgh prohibition enforcer, achieved the following:

15,000 raids

18,000 people arrested

3,000 distilleries shut town

4,500 stills shut down (which could collectively produce 350,000+ gallons of liquor a day

416 breweries shut down

44 alcohol plants, 100 cutting plants shut down, and about 200 storage facilities shut down

1,800 automobiles seized

3.4 million gallons of mash, 180,000 gallons of moonshine, 10,000 gallons of wine, 650,000 gallons of beer, and 113 gallons of alcohol destroyed


Because prohibition agents were so underfunded, they were often forced to go after small targets, including people who made moonshine in rural stills

Enforcement in some urban areas became more of a publicity stunt than a sustained, concerted effort

Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith

Einstein and Smith disguised themselves and staged raids on a number of popular New York City clubs and speakeasies

Made thousands of arrests and had a conviction rate of over 95%

Were eventually laid off

This was rumored to be related to an incident in which they raided Club 21 and arrested prominent citizens

Intensification of Laws

U.S. prison population increased six-fold between 1910 and 1929, and much of that increase had to do with prohibition

Nevertheless, many authorities and politicians were frustrated at the continued prevalence of prohibition violations

Federal government passed the Jones Act in 1929

Allowed for up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines for liquor violations

Michigan made life sentence mandatory for anyone convicted of a fourth liquor

Many states treated the possession of a flask on one’s person the same as the possession of an illegal handgun.

Rise of Organized Crime

There had been rumors of mafia and “Black Hand” activity in cities like Chicago dating back to the late 19th century

The Black Hand was not an organization so much as a blackmail scheme

It’s difficult to tell how extensive organized crime actually was in the early 20th century

Prohibition created new opportunities for organized crime

Large-scale smuggling and manufacturing of liquor required significant logistical planning and organization

Organized Liquor Rackets

Roy Olmstead, Seattle

In the early years of Prohibition, many of the people involved in the bootlegging or liquor smuggling trades were not people who had been involved in previous criminal enterprises

Example: Roy Olmstead

Seattle police officer who smuggled liquor in from Canada

Known as an “honest” bootlegger who did not dilute his product and forbid his men from carrying guns

George remus

Former defense attorney who became a liquor kingpin in Cincinnati

Remus did not think of himself as a gangster, and he organized his operation as a sophisticated business that he called “The Circle”

Bought up distilleries and drug companies

Bribed members of the Harding administration to look the other way and provide him with immunity from prosecution

Hired people to rob his own vehicles

Because he controlled every part of the business and had so many officials in his pocket, Remus had little need to resort to violence

Gangs and Liquor

Soon enough, however, urban ethnic gangs became dominant forces in the bootlegging business

Johnny Torrio (Italian) and Dean O’Banion (Irish) vied for power in Chicago

Arnold Rothstein came to dominate New York

Jewish and Italian gangsters competed for control of Philadelphia’s liquor trade

Jewish Purple Gang dominated Detroit’s trade

Famous Gangsters

Alphonse Capone

Charles “Lucky” Luciano

Gang Wars

Gangs were basically profit-seeking organizations, and many tried to avoid violence if possible

When turf-sharing arrangements worked out, the illegal liquor trade was often fairly peaceable; when they didn’t gang wars broke out

One of the most notorious of these was between Johnny Torrio and Dean O’Banion’s Gang

O’Banion controlled Chicago’s North side, but he wanted a greater share of business and also resented that Torrio did not crack down on a group of Sicilians who were invading his territory

Alliances broke down

O’Banion was assassinated, probably at the behest of Torrio

Torrio was shot and severely wounded, leaving Al Capone in charge

In subsequent years, Chicago murder rate jumped 250%

Gangland Murder in Los Angeles (1933)

Purple Gang Murder, Detroit

Gangland Murder

Al Capone and Social Banditry

Despite their participation in numerous acts of violence, Prohibition-era gangsters often enjoyed a popularity with the American public

Many cultivated their image by participating in philanthropy

Al Capone enjoyed a great deal of popularity in Chicago, especially in the Italian immigrant community

It wasn’t until the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1829, in which Capone’s forces executed six of Bugs Moran’s men, that Capone’s popularity began to wane

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