Demonizing immigrants was in full swing even before ratification and this hostility toward immigrants and ethnic minorities intensified during the 1920s. He also takes pains to debunk some of the apocrypha that, thanks to the carelessness of less diligent historians, has become part of the accepted lore of the age. Okrent was also a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at t relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing. Ruthless local gangs, led by small-time hoodlums like Al Capone, Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, formed syndicates that modernized criminal activity throughout the United States. In 1920 could anyone have believed that the Eighteenth Amendment, ostensibly addressing the single subject of intoxicating beverages, would set off an avalanche of change in areas as diverse as international trade, speedboat design, tourism practices, soft-drink marketing, and the English language itself? How did they append to their most sacred document 112 words that knew only one precedent in American history? The election of Herbert Hoover over openly wet Al Smith was seen by the Dries as a major victory, but it would prove pyrrhic. Reuther Library, Wayne State University On Jan. .
Enforced temperance, after all, was a highly unpopular concept in many quarters, particularly among city dwellers, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, blacks and an awful lot of native-born white Protestant males. How did a freedom-loving people decide to give up a private right that had been freely exercised by millions upon millions since the first European colonists arrived in the New World? This was probably the most fun for me, and where I learned the most. And because bootlegging was a victimless crime, law enforcement increasingly made use of intrusive surveillance. To change the laws they needed to vote. Much of American slang hails from the 1920s when code language became a way to avoid the law. Much of Last Call recalls famous names such as Joe Kennedy, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Susan B. No constitutional amendment had ever been repealed, but the Eighteenth was threatened.
And what a great tale! From its start, America has been awash in drink. Then: once prohibition had become law of the land, the book explains in great detail just how much it was a massive debacle, in large part because no government state or Federal was willing to spend the money necessary to enforce it. Okrent, though, never lectures or critiques; he just tells his story. It was quite a mixed drink. In the end I think that prohibition was a bad idea because it was the government trying to tell Americans how to live.
By comparison, Kennedy was never a bootlegger; this is a myth that developed during the time of his sons presidential campaign. The social costs of heavy drinking were high, particularly when it came to family life. Unlike Coolidge who barely lifted a finger to procure funds for enforcement, Hoover was both an engineer and a progressive that thought there was a logical solution to every problem. With the vote of Utah in December, Prohibition died. There are less flappers partying at speakeasies and gangsters firing their Tommy guns than you will get in some histories of the Prohibition, but I really enjoyed Okrent's exploration of the less popular aspects -- the gamesmanship of the politics, the connections to other movements like women's suffrage, income tax advocates, and anti-immigration groups. The next day I had a headache, of which I was quite proud.
Both America and its weird proclamations and weirder principles seem a way-distant remove from the one we live in today, but Okrent notes the surprising similarities as well as the obvious disparities. Liquor was cheaper than tea, safer than water, and used as currency in many western States during the years of the early republic. Thousands of ordinary citizens were caught in the crossfire. Movie theatres although expected to increase revenues found themselves losing them, from a result of not being able to sell alcohol. Just reading this made me want a drink. Prohibitionists were very effective at using pressure to bring large employers into their camp. Thus began the era of Prohibition, a nearly 14-year orgy of lawbreaking unparalleled in our history.
For them it was the way to strike back for Reconstruction. As the last days fell before the law took effect, thousands of gallons of liquor were purchased to be stored in basements and wine cellars. Last Call is capacious, meticulous, and thrillingly told. Yes it gave us Las Vegas, but it wasn't a good thing. Einstein has declared the law of gravitation outgrown and decadent. I think for most people, myself excluded prior to reading this book, the Prohibition era was an interesting footnote in American history, an odd outlier and interesting tidbit to talk about when not discussing the standard American triumphalist approach to history.
But he brings to his account a breadth of scholarship that allows us to put the shenanigans in proper perspective. Mencken, Meyer Lansky and the incredible—if long-forgotten—federal official Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who throughout the twenties was the most powerful woman in the country. Out of 4200 officers on the force, 3800 were transferred--only 1 cop in 10 was considered honest by the city of Philadelphia. Anheuser-Busch bought their famous Clydesdales for marketing purposes to deliver beer including to the White House. However, this proved to be fruitless as the boat specifications were made public to contractors bidding on the contract.
Alcohol has always been a large industry in the United States. The prohibitionist force was felt in many ways. Okrent tells how some bootleggers hired people to go to court for them, plead guilty, and pay the fine. And when America entered World War I in 1917, they helped fan the flames of anti-German hysteria by accusing the Busch family and other brewers of harboring sympathies for the kaiser a charge, not entirely untrue, that turned beer drinking into a disloyal act. But several of the most influential framers of Prohibition are often forgotten, including its author and most ardent supporter, Wayne Wheeler. Widespread social change was at the core and among the most powerful changes were those that affected the women who had once demanded Temperance. Alcohol reached parched throats many other ways.