Unintended Consequences

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James E. Pepper Company (bourbon whiskey distillery); L&N (Louisville & Nashville) Railroad box car, 1932. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky Special Collections Library.

When the 18th Amendment passed it was expected that the social ills of the country would dry up and that the laws would be relatively easy to enforce. Nothing could have been further from the truth. A number of unintended consequences resulted from the new laws. As saloons closed and speakeasies opened women found venues for drinking alcohol that had been previously unavailable to them.

The Roaring Twenties saw the rise of jazz music and dancing as men and women socialized together. Cocktail recipes such as the Mary Pickford, the Sidecar, and the French 75 were developed to mask the taste of poor-quality liquor. The huge amounts of money tied to the import and distribution of illegal liquor fueled crime and led to the organization of criminals into a national syndicate. Organized crime as we know it today is tied to the development of crime families during Prohibition. Corruption of police officials was rife as organized crime figures paid off police and enforcement agents to either look the other way or to actively participate in protecting their activities.