Prohibition Organised Crime

1402 Words 6 Pages
An assessment of the US’ 18th Amendment; it’s supporters and it’s effect on organised crime, 1919-1933.
The consumption of alcohol has been a controversial topic in America since the colonial period. Long before The Volstead Act of 1919, people and organisations from all over the country disputed the legality of alcohol and the existence of saloons. When prohibition was eventually introduced in the United States, it had a myriad of unforeseen consequences. One effect being the exponential growth of organised crime syndicates. In cities all across the country, particularly Chicago and New York, immigrant gangs grew into semi-legitimate businesses funded substantially by bootlegging. By allowing these criminal outfits to prosper, and the gangsters
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From the rebellious socialites carousing in speakeasies to the rapidly developing criminal syndicates; it was evident that the respect the American public had for their own constitution was rapidly disappearing. The reason for this being that the demand for alcohol had not disappeared, but legal methods of obtaining it had. Therefore a vast number of the population, normally law-abiding citizens, used whatever criminal means necessary to procure a drink. Alcohol was smuggled from Canada, the Bahamas and other nearby countries by ‘rum-running’ organisations. Ships, such as those belonging to Captain William McCoy, carried vast quantities of alcohol to just beyond the US territorial waters. Speedboats then carried the precious cargo from the ships to small coves and inlets, slowly and inconspicuously smuggling the alcohol into the country. From there it was largely distributed to speakeasies for general consumption. Other forms of procuring alcohol included individual distilleries and the use of forged or real prescriptions to obtain ‘medicinal’ whiskey. Another method involved denaturing the legal alcohol many American industries used in production. It required denaturing as it was generally mixed with poisonous chemicals to discourage consumption. These different approaches to tackling prohibition were used throughout the …show more content…
Previously insignificant criminal gangs were more than willing to accommodate the growing demand for illegal alcohol, and as a result organised crime in America flourished. Building on the strong foundation of bootlegging, the illegal smuggling of alcohol, these criminal gangs expanded into gambling, prostitution, narcotics, extortion, and every other illegal business they could create. They turned bootlegging and the illegal sale of alcohol into a full-fledged industry, organising themselves into complex, effectively-run criminal syndicates in the process. In Chicago, for example, a multitude of different gangs divided the city between themselves. The struggle for prominence above the rest led each gang to compete with the others. Undoubtedly the most infamous gangster of the prohibition era, Al Capone, led Chicago’s largest criminal syndicate. He gained fame after taking over leadership of John Torrio’s gang in 1920. As leader of an illicit yet multi-faceted organisation, Capone managed the smuggling of alcohol into the country, the running of multiple breweries and distilleries in and around Chicago, as well as the distribution of his alcohol, primarily to speakeasies within Chicago. Considering the illegality of his actions, he bought legal immunity through the bribery of policemen and other officials. He bought

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