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The 1920's
Bootleggers, Rumrunners, and Moonshine - The Business of Prohibition



Bootleggers, Rumrunners, and Moonshine - The Business of Prohibition
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 9
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.54

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    crusaders, defunct, drugstores, graft, moonshine, small-time, stills, suppliers, syphilis, tearooms, trucked, mastermind, bootleg, bootleggers, embargo, speakeasy
     content words:    Volstead Act, On January, Al Capone, Day Massacre


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Bootleggers, Rumrunners, and Moonshine - The Business of Prohibition
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     In 1920, Prohibition went into effect in the U.S. The 18th Amendment made the manufacture, importing, and sale of liquor illegal. The Volstead Act put in place a police system for enforcing the ban. The effects of this embargo were dramatic. Brewing had been the fifth largest industry in the country. On January 16th, these large companies were immediately put out of business. Saloons, liquor stores, and all manner of other businesses were defunct as well.
 
2     The American public gave the policy mixed reviews. There was much support for some kind of regulation of liquor. Twenty-six states had already passed "dry" laws. People who wanted to buy liquor would travel to the nearest "wet" area. Now, with the national ban, there was no place to go where alcohol was legal. People used 50% less alcohol after Prohibition started. But the sale of alcohol didn't stop. It just went underground. Along came the speakeasy. These secret drinking places were often hidden behind drugstores, tearooms, or other legitimate businesses.
 
3     Making liquor, however, was forbidden. Where did the speakeasies get alcohol? Certain "entrepreneurs" were eager to step into the gap. Organized crime was already a factor in large cities. Local thugs were making money with saloons, brothels, and gambling halls. Prohibition opened whole new vistas for those willing to break the law. The market for illegal liquor was huge. Supplying it became a big business. Neighborhood bosses hired mobs of underlings. The crime underworld grew as it brought alcohol to the cities.
 
4     America's neighbors were not "dry." Liquor was trucked in from Canada and Mexico. Ships laden with rum from the Caribbean waited just outside U.S. waters. Boats met the rum ships to ferry liquor to U.S. shores. The men who did this job were called "rumrunners." Other alcohol was made in hidden places in the U.S. To escape the law, the liquor was made at night, the operations lit only by the moon. Alcohol made in this way was called "moonshine."

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