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Prohibition & Emergence of Organized Crime

Though surely variations of organized crime have existed in human societies throughout the ages, if in the United States there was a galvanizing moment for organized crime, that moment took place on January 16, 1919. On this day, the states ratified the pivotal 18th Amendment to the Constitution, birthing the Prohibition Era and with it, the modern gangster ( By 1920, the Volstead Act was in effect, prohibiting the sale of all intoxicating beverages containing in excess of 0.5% alcohol; this law, perhaps unsurprisingly, served only to make alcohol consumption all the more desirable, and the Roaring Twenties soon became the "age of jazz, alcohol and sexual liberation" ( The presence of organized crime, beginning in 1920, would influence the United States in a myriad of ways and in a host of arenas. The legacy of organized crime extends to this day.

The reach of organized crime can appear to be boundless. Peopled with colorful characters living dangerousùyet decadentùlives, the underworld of organized crime would, in cities like Chicago, retain a profile that was palpable, indeed visible, to the entire community. Police forces were infiltrated, intimidated and bought off, merchants were monitored and controlled, and politicians were bribed, manipulated, even appointed by organized crime bosses. The extravagance of the 1920s would become indistinguishable from those underground peddlers and purveyors of illegal indulgences: prostitution, gambling and of course, alcohol.

The ratification of the 18th Amendment was lauded as a "Noble Experiment", and though passing in 1919, the ban on the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol was not to take effect for one year, thus making 1920 the pivotal first year of the actual Prohibition (Traynor 26). The Volstead Act, bold in its prescriptions, lacked the force of will needed to bring them about. In this, by outlawing alcohol in letter if ...

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Prohibition & Emergence of Organized Crime. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 06:41, May 31, 2020, from