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This Is What America Looked Like When Alcohol Was Illegal

For 13 straight years, alcohol was completely illegal in America.

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At midnight on Jan. 17, 1920, the United States went dry as the 18th Amendment effectively prohibited the production, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages across the country.

Aimed at combating alcoholism and supporting family values, the nationwide prohibition known as the Volstead Act stood for 13 years until 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment.

Warning: This post contains graphic images.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

The bloody aftermath of the Valentine's Day Massacre of Feb. 14, 1929: Seven members of the O'Banion–Moran gang were trapped in a warehouse, lined up against the wall, and shot to death. According to the Chicago Police Department, the murders were a result of the illicit liquor trade in Chicago during Prohibition.

Left: The shoe of an alcohol smuggler who had been arrested at the Canadian border is strapped with wooden soles in the form of cattle hooves to camouflage their border crossing, circa 1924. Right: Bottles of Scotch whisky smuggled in hollowed-out loaves of bread are confiscated by police on June 12, 1924.


Left: A woman shows off her new initialed garter flask, which had become the latest rage in 1926. Right: A potential customer examines an enterprising advertisement for an illegal speakeasy during Prohibition in the 1920s.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Cullen-Harrison Act, or "Beer Bill," the first relaxation of the Volstead Act, on Mar. 22, 1933. The new law allowed the sale of beer and wine containing 3.2% alcohol starting at midnight on April 6.

American Stock Archive / Getty Images

Bartenders at Sloppy Joe's bar in Chicago pour a round of drinks on the house for a large group of smiling customers as it was announced that the 18th Amendment had been repealed and Prohibition had been removed from the US Constitution after 13 years.