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PROHIBITION AND ORGANISED CRIME

Mark Twain (1867)
“Prohibition only drives drunkenness behind doors and into dark places, and does not cure it, or even diminish it”

ORGANISATIONS

WOMEN

PROGRESSIVES

ISOLATIONISTS

RURAL AMERICANS

Christians

PRO-PROHIBITION

FRAGMENTING FAMILIES

ADDICTION

IMMORAL BEHAVIOUR

POLITICAL CORRUPTION

HEALTH ISSUES

VIOLENCE

GOALS OF PROHIBITION

Al Capone
“All I do is to supply a public demand…somebody had to throw some liquor on that thirst.”

Alcohol was still presentAlcoholismCriminal organisations thrivedViolence increasedCivil discontentment

1933

To what extent did Prohibition PARADOXICALLY FUEL the very immoral tendencies it aimed to restrain ?

The Prohibition : a “noble experiment” yet spurring the rise of mafias…

I/ A/ The first steps towards organisation…

Part of the Sicilian Mafia (Cosa Nostra) Activities : extortion, rackets, policy gameNot as coordinated and centralised as it would be in the 1920s.

THE BROOKLYN CAMORRA

Paul Kelly and 1500 thugs Activities : robbery, racketeering, prostitution, street fighting, drugsAl Capone and Charles Lucky Luciano

THE FIVE POINTS GANG

“God’s gift to mankind and a panacea for almost every type of ailment.”
6 minutes after Volstead Act passed = two cars full of whisky emptied
Howard Abadinsky
“They had to become businessmen and that gave rise to what we now call organized crime”

I/ B/ Soon followed by the development of ORGANISED AND SYNDICATE crime…

Armed bandits

Boat captains

Lawyers

Howard Abadinsky
“It wasn’t the mobsters who ran the most organized criminal schemes in America, but corrupt political “bosses”

I/C/ ...And the apparition of eminent business mobsters

CAPO DI TUTTI CAPI

New York’s top bootlegger National Crime Syndicate, 1929The Commission, 1930

CHARLES "LUCKY" LUCIANO

"SCARFACE"

Co-founder of The Outfit Kingpin of Chicago$100 million (old) dollars / year1930 : over 6 000 speakeasies

AL CAPONE

TRANSITION
As we have seen, the Prohibition caused the development of large-scale mafias and their underground illegal networkbut it also...

…Induced the perversion of society : economic and social consequences...

II

II/A/ Prohibition’s economic consequences : a thorn in the side of the “Roaring Twenties”…

New York Tribune
“sad scenes witnessed on Broadway”

Restaurants

Hotels

Bars

BANKRUPCY

THE KNICKERBOCKER
PARK AVENUE HOTEL
Unemployment roseLiquor tax (75% lost in NYC) $11 billion lost at a national level$300 million = enforcement
The Volstead Act prompted the apparition of a parallel economy, pushing people to commit crime.

II/B/ ...Propelling the criminalisation of the civilian society...

RELOCATING TO CANADA
- Bathtub gin - Rotgut whiskey - Cocktail
SMUGGLING / MAKING ILLEGAL SPIRITS
- Lawyer for liquor smugglers- 14 distilleries in Cincinnati - $50 million dollars made (he sold for "medicinal use").
FINDING LOOPHOLES IN THE LAW : GEORGE REMUS
Criminalisation of society, with at its epicentre rival gangs, went along with an increase of public violence

II/C/ ...And leading to an increase of violence

GANG VIOLENCE
Drive-by shootingsKillings (+1000 dead, NYC)Gang rackeetering Crime x3 in Chicago
TRANSITION
As we have seen, negative economic consequences were felt, people turned to crime and violence increasedAnd all of that led to....

…the failure of Prohibition : GENERAL Corruption and PRO-REPEAL MOVEMENTS

III

III/A/ The difficult enforcement of the law...

Only 4000 agents, most of whom were crooked Al Capone gave them $500 000 per year ($6 million today)+Intimidation of witnessesPolitical connections

THE BRIBING OF POLICE

OTHER ISSUES
- Large borders with Canada and Mexico- Broken federal justice system- Prohibition Bureau's agents were not civil servants
Prohibition revealed how easily police officers could be bribed. Yet, some agents remained honest.

III/B/ …With very few exceptions : “The Untouchables”...

Wickersham Commission +400 agents and $2.5 million to enforce the lawAl Capone arrested in 1929= one year in prison

HERBERT CLARK HOVER (1929-1933)

THE "UNTOUCHABLES"

destroyed traffic worth $500 000 dollars (= $10 million) $9 million (= $180 million) in lost revenues. Al Capone failed to bribe him : $2,000 every week ($35 000)

ELIOT NESS

III/C/ …Resulting in the Prohibition Repeal

25%

Fall of consumer prices

13 million

People unemployed

Fall of the GDP between 1929-1933

29%

The GREAT DEPRESSION

CONCLUSION
William Chambliss (1988)
“As long as providing things that are heavily in demand is illegal, crime networks of one sort or another are inevitable”

To what extent did Prohibition paradoxically fuel the very immoral tendencies it aimed to restrain ?

- Large-scale mafias trhiving, with eminent bosses- Economic negative effects on establishments and states - Criminalised ordinary civilians - Idealised alcohol and speakeasies - Caused an increase of crime and violence - Failed because of problems inherent to the judiciary / enforcement system

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1- General works : - MELANDRI Pierre & PORTES Jacques, Histoire intérieure des Etats-Unis au XXe siècle, 1991,- PERES Rémi, Chronologie des États-Unis au XXe siècle : histoire des faits économiques, politiques et sociaux, 2000, - KASPI André, La vie quotidienne aux Etats-Unis au temps de la prospérité : 1919-1929, 1980, 2- Specialised works : - AMADEO Kimberly, “What Made the Twenties Roar, Rainford High School”, 2021- DOYLE Conor, “Organised Crime in the USA during Prohibition : An Economic Analysis Of The Rise Of An Illegal Industry”, Student Economic Review, 2005- LANDESCO John, “Prohibition and Crime”, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1932- LOGAN Leslie Nicole, “The Bootlegging Business : An Economic Analysis of Organized Crime During Prohibition”, University of Tennessee, 1999

BIBLIOGRAPHY

3- Websites : - Center for Alcohol Policy, “The Twenty-First Amendment : A Lesson In Responsible Law Making and Governance”, 2014- HAYES AMY, “Bootleggers, Bathtub GIn & Speakeasies : Organised Crime in the 1920s”, The Collector, 2022- LERNER Michael, “Unintended Consequences of Prohibition”, PBS- PARKINS, Prohibition and the Rise of the American Gangster, National Archives, 2012- ROOS DAVE, “How Prohibition Put the “Organized” in Organized Crime”, History, 2019- SANE Mamoudiara, “De la Prohibition au Crime Organisé : L’Epopée d’Al Capone”, Revue Histoire, 2023- The Mob Museum, “Prohibition Profits Transformed the Mob”, Prohibition An Interactive History

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