Alcohol Prohibition timeline


The 1933 appeal of prohibition did not apply to native americans. They continued under prohibition laws until 1953, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower Indian prohibition was repealed country-wide. Indian reservations, however, remained dry unless they opted to permit the possession and sale of alcohol on the reservation. Many reservations remain “dry” today.

However, most frequently, tribal police do not enforce the alcohol law in areas where Anglo federal employees reside, or unless the drinker is causing a disturbance or has committed other crimes.

Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is one of the “dry” reservations. White Clay, Nebraska, is just across the state line, one mile outside of the reservation boundary. This tiny unincorporated town has a population of 14, four beer stores, and sells over FOUR MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF BEER EVERY YEAR. Most of their customers come from the nearby reservation.

Alcohol and Prohibition Timeline

As the Puritans loaded provisions onto the Mayflower before casting off for the New World, they brought on board more beer than water. (Royce, 1981, p. 38). By 1657, a rum distillery was operating in Boston.

1789 The first American temperance society is formed in Litchfield,
Connecticut. [Crafts, op.cit., p.9]

1792 The Whisky Rebellion, a protest by farmers in western Pennsylvania
against a federal tax on liquor, breaks out and is put down by
overwhelming force sent to the area by George Washington.

1801 On Jefferson’s recommendation, the federal duty on liquor was
abolished. [Catlin, op.cit., p.113]

1802 An amendment was added to the Trade and Intercourse Acts that outlawed the use of liquor in the Indian fur trade. The Acts stipulated that private traders must purchase trading licenses to trade with the Indian tribes, and this doomed the Factor System from the start. The federal trading license allowed the traders to take liquor with them for use by the boatmen. The factory posts could not compete with traders that illegally, or legally, took alcohol to the Indians. 

1822 The government operated Factory System was abolished in 1822, but the laws making it illegal to sell alcohol to the Indians were still on the books. 

1826 The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance is founded in
Boston. By 1833, there are 6,000 local Temperance societies, with more
than one million members.

1832 In July 1832, Congress passed a law that totally banned alcohol in the Indian country.

1845 A law prohibiting the public sale of liquor is enacted in New York
State. It is repealed in 1847.

1852 Susan B. Anthony establishes the Women’s State Temperance Society
of New York, the first such society formed by and for women. Many of the
early feminists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Abby
Kelly, are also ardent prohibitionists. [Andrew Sinclar, *Era of Excess*,

1862 Internal Revenue Act enacted imposing a license fee of twenty
dollars on retail liquor dealers, and a tax of one dollar a barrel on beer
and twenty cents a gallon on spirits. [Sinclare, op.cit. p 152]

1869 The Prohibition Party is formed. Gerrit Smith, twice Abolitionist
candidate for President, an associate of John Brown, and a crusading
prohibitionist, declares: “Our involuntary slaves are set free, but our
millions of voluntary slaves still clang their chains. The lot of the
literal slave, of him whom others have enslaved, is indeed a hard one;
nevertheless, it is a paradise compared with the lot of him who has
enslaved himself to alcohol.” [Quoted in Sinclar, op.cit. pp.83-84]

1874 The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is founded in Cleveland. 

1882 The law in the United States, and the world, making “temperance
education” a part of the required course in public schools is enacted.

1882 The Personal Liberty League of the United States is founded to
oppose the increasing momentum of movements for compulsory abstinence
from alcohol. [Catlin, op.cit. p.114]

1883 Frances Willard a leader of the W.C.T.U. forms the World’s Woman’s
Christian Temperance Union.

1884 Laws are enacted to make anti-alcohol teaching compulsory in public
schools in New York State. The following year similar laws are passed in
Pennsylvania, with other states soon following suit.

1886, Congress makes such education mandatory in the District of Columbia,
and in territorial, military, and naval schools. By 1900, all the states
have similar laws. [Crafts, op.cit. p.72]

1901 The Senate adopts a resolution, introduced by Henry Cabot Lodge, to
forbid the sale by American traders of opium and alcohol “to aboriginal
tribes and uncivilized races.” Theses provisions are later extended to
include “uncivilized elements in America itself and in its territories,
such as Indians, Alaskans, the inhabitants of Hawaii, railroad workers,
and immigrants at ports of entry.” [Sinclar, op.cit. p.33]

1913 The Sixteenth Amendment, creating the legal authority for federal
income tax, is enacted. Between 1870 and 1915, the tax on liquor provides
from one-half to two-thirds of the whole of the internal revenue of the
United States, amounting, after the turn of the century, to about $200
million annually. The Sixteenth Amendment thus makes possible, just seven
years later, the Eighteenth Amendment.

1914 Congressman Richard Hobson of Alabama, urging a prohibition
amendment to the Constitution, asserts: “Liquor will actually make a brute
out of a Negro, causing him to commit unnatural crimes. The effect is the
same on the white man, though the white man being further evolved it takes
longer time to reduce him to the same level.” Negro leaders join the
crusade against alcohol. [Ibid., p.29]

1916 The Pharmacopoeia of the United States drops whiskey and brandy
from its list of drugs. Four years later, American physicians begin
prescribing these “drugs” in quantities never before prescribed by doctors.

1917 The president of the American Medical Association endorses national
prohibition. The House of Delegates of the Association passes a
resolution stating: “Resolved, The American Medical Association opposes
the use of alcohol as a beverage; and be it further Resolved, That the
use of alcohol as a therapeutic agent should be discourages.” By 1928,
physicians make an estimated $40,000,000 annually by writing prescriptions
for whiskey.” [Ibid. p.61]

1917 The American Medical Association passes a resolution declaring that
“sexual continence is compatible with health and is the best prevention of
venereal infections,” and one of the methods for controlling syphilis is
by controlling alcohol. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels prohibits
the practice of distributing contraceptives to sailors bound on shore
leave, and Congress passes laws setting up “dry and decent zones” around
military camps. “Many barkeepers are fined for selling liquor to men in
uniform. Only at Coney Island could soldiers and sailors change into the
grateful anonymity of bathing suits and drink without molestation from
patriotic passers-by.” [Ibid. pp.117-18]

1918 The Anti-Saloon League calls the “liquor traffic” “un-American,”
pro-German, crime-producing, food-wasting, youth-corrupting, home-
wrecking, [and] treasonable.” [ibid. p.121]

1919 The Eighteenth (Prohibition) Amendment is added to the U.S.
Constitution. It is repealed in 1933.

1920-1933 The use of alcohol is prohibited in the United States. In
1932 alone, approximately 45,000 persons receive jail sentences for
alcohol offenses. During the first eleven years of the Volstead Act,
17,971 persons are appointed to the Prohibition Bureau. 11,982 are
terminated “without prejudice,” and 1,604 are dismissed for bribery,
extortion, theft, falsification of records, conspiracy, forgery, and
perjury. [Fort, op.cit. p.69]

1921 The Council of the American Medical Association refuses to confirm
the Associations 1917 Resolution on alcohol. In the first six months after
the enactment of the Volstead Act, more than 15,000 physicians and 57,000
druggests and drug manufacturers apply for licenses to prescribe and sell
liquor. [Sinclair, op.cit., p.492]

1929 About one gallon of denatured industrial alcohol in ten is diverted into
bootleg liquor. About forty Americans per million die each year from
drinking illegal alcohol, mainly as a result of methyl (wood) alcohol
poisoning. [Sinclare, op.cit. p.201]

1930 The Federal Bureau of Narcotics is formed. Many of its agents,
including its first commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger, are former
prohibition agents.

1935 The American Medical Association passes a resolution declaring that
“alcoholics are valid patients.” [Quoted in Neil Kessel and Henry Walton,
*Alcoholism*, p.21]

1953 Indian prohibition was repealed country-wide in 1953 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Indian reservations, however, remained dry unless they opted to permit the possession and sale of alcohol on the reservation. 

1954 Four-fifths of the French people questioned about wine assert that
wine is “good for one’s health,” and one quarter hold that it is
“indispensable.” It is estimated that a third of the electorate in France
receives all or part of its income from the production or sale of
alcoholic beverages; and that there is one outlet for every forty-five
inhabitants. [Kessel and Walton, op.cit. pp.45, 73]

Drinking attitudes and behaviors in the United States reflect its strong temperance past. National Prohibition of alcohol existed for nearly 14 years between early 1902 and late 1933. Upon repeal of Prohibition, however, a large number of states continued their own state prohibition and others permitted “local option” regarding prohibition. There are still hundreds of “dry” counties and municipalities in which the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. There are also millions of Americans who currently support the concept of prohibition.