Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

From 1919 to 1933, the United States was a dry nation. It was illegal to make, sell, or consume alcohol. In this collection of images, you'll see what daily life was like in a country where police poured millions of gallons of booze into the gutters — and everyone else surreptitiously drank it in bizarre, hidden places.

The picture above was taken on March 31, 1932 when Orange County Sheriff's deputies were dumping illegal booze in Santa Ana, California, and came from the Orange County Archives.

The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

Prohibition was instituted after decades of struggle, with the ratification of Amendment XVIII (January 16, 1919) that said:

After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

The Volstead Act (known as the National Prohibition Act) was vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson, but overridden by the House and became law on October 28, 1919. It began on January 17, 1920 and ended on on December 5, 1933, after the ratification of Amendment XXI.

(via NARA)

On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment became law

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Montana Beer And Wine Distributors Association)

Interior of a crowded bar moments before midnight, when wartime prohibition went into effect in New York City, June 30, 1919

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Library of Congress)

The Last Call: The time is getting shorter and so is our stock, January 16, 1920

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via National Endowment for the Humanities)

33,100 gallons of wine being flushed into the gutter outside the North cucamonga Winery in Los Angeles, February 1920

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(Photo by Topical Press Agency/Stringer)

Dismantling a still in San Francisco

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Library Of Congress)

Prohibition agents pour liquor into a sewer following a raid in 1921 in New York City

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Library of Congress)

1921, Chicago

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Wikimedia Commons)

A policeman stands near a wrecked car and cases of moonshine liquor, 1922

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Library Of Congress)

Cow shoes used by Moonshiners to hide their footprints from Prohibition agents, 1922

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

According to The Evening Independent (May 27, 1922):

A new method of evading prohibition agents was revealed here today by A.L. Allen, state prohibition enforcement director, who displayed what he called a "cow shoe" as the latest thing front the haunts of moonshiners. The cow shoe is a strip of metal to which is tacked a wooden block carved to resemble the hoof of a cow, which may be strapped to the human foot. A man shod with a pair of them would leave a trail resembling that of a cow. The shoe found was picked up near Port Tampa where a still was located some time ago. It will be sent to the prohibition department at Washington. Officers believe the inventor got his idea from a Sherlock Holmes story in which the villain shod his horse with shoes the imprint of which resembled those of a cow's hoof.

(via Museum Syndicate)

A woman pours alcohol into a cup from a cane, February 1922

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Library of Congress)

A dog trained to detect liquor sniffs at flask in the back pocket of a man near the Potomac River, 1922

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Library of Congress)

Remains of a borrowed Stutz touring car. The bootlegger driver was killed and fifty gallons of corn liquor was destroyed, July 1924

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Library of Congress)

Tower of barrels of alcohol to be burned, 1924

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Retronaut)

Members of the American Liberties League are protesting Prohibition with a quote from the book of Timothy in the Bible: "Use A Little Wine For Thy Stomachs Sake", c. 1925

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(Photo by General Photographic Agency/Stringer, via Getty Images)

Dismantling a speakeasy after a raid in Boston

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Boston Public Library)

Running moonshine

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Just A Car Guy)

A "Fresh Fish & Fruit" boat delivers bottled drinks – maybe illegal alcohol?

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Boston Public Library)

Alcohol, discovered by Prohibition agents during a raid on an illegal distillery, pours out of the upper windows of a three-story storefront in Detroit, December 10, 1929, by Detroit News Staff

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Walter P. Reuther Library)

The new insignia plate of the Bureau of Prohibition, adopted for use by prohibition agents in stopping suspected automobiles, August 1930

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Library of Congress)

A member of "The Crusaders", an organization formed to overthrow prohibition, puts a new tire cover on her car, December 1930

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via National Endowment for the Humanities)

The Beer for Taxation parade (also known as "We Want Beer" parade), May 1932, New York City

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Retronaut)

A line outside the Board of Health offices in New York City, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, April 14, 1933

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(Photo by Keystone/Stringer/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images)

Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(Photo by Keystone/Staff, via Getty Images)

End of Prohibition: December 5, 1933

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

Boozy Snapshots of American Life Under Prohibition

(via Visitagratis and Chattahoochee Brewing Company)