18th Amendment 1919 (National Prohibition Act)

January 19, 1919, Congress ratified the 18th Amendment, banning the manufacture, sale and transport of alcoholic beverages. However, there were no provisional funds for anything beyond token enforcement.

18th Amendment Splits the Country - Everyone is forced to choose – you are either a “dry” in support of Prohibition, or a “wet.” But one thing’s clear, Prohibition is having little effect on America’s thirst. Underground distilleries and saloons supply bootlegged liquor to an abundant clientele, while organized criminals fight to control illegal alcohol markets. The mayhem prompts the U.S. Department of the Treasury to strengthen its law enforcement capabilities.

On October 28, 1919, Congress passes the Volstead Prohibition Enforcement Act which delegates responsibility for policing the 18th Amendment to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Department of the Treasury. Both legislations become effective on January 16, 1920. The Prohibition Unit is created to enforce the National Prohibition Act from 1920 to 1926. Men and women are hired to serve as prohibition agents and are themselves referred to as “Dry Agents,” by the public.

Organized criminal gangs illegally supply America’s demand for liquor, making millions and influencing the country’s largest financial institutions. Vast criminal fortunes corrupt enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, juries and politicians.

Last Reviewed September 28, 2016