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  • In the 1600s and 1700s, many Americans drank alcoholic beverages because alcohol seemed safer( less likely to be contaminated orspoiled) and was cheaper than imported alternative beverages like tea or coffee.
  • In the early 1800s, people formed temperance movements to promote moderation in the use of alcohol.Temperance supporters argued that abuse of alcohol could cause health problems, social problems, and be a sign of poor moral values.
  • In the late 1800s, the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was formed. The WCTU opposed all use of alcohol. WCTU members argued that alcohol use consistently led to health problems, domestic problems(such as physical and verbal abuse), and social problems such as poverty.
  • By the early 1900s, the WCTU had gained widespread support for its drive to pass a national ban on alcohol. Some Prohibition supporters believed that recent immigrants to the United States were more likely to abuse alcohol than native-born Americans and that a ban would make those immigrants "better citizens." Others argued that the alcohol industries (saloon owners, breweries, etc.) were corrupt. Some held religious beliefs that argued against any alcohol use and believed thatthe nation would be strengthened if other citizens also had to follow such religious beliefs.
  • By 1914, many cities, counties, and states were banning alcohol. Finally, during World War I, Congress passed a "wartime prohibition" to keep farmers from selling grain and corn for the production of alcohol. In 1917, Congress extended this "wartime ban" into a permanent ban, in the form of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 18th Amendment was ratified in 1919, and Prohibition went into effect in 1920.

Lesson Home

Information taken from A. Blinder, Hard Heads, Soft Hearts (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1987), pp. 116­18.

Prohibition then, MADD today: Economics Lesson