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The Rise of the Speakeasy During Prohibition in the United States

Updated on January 11, 2014

May 24 is the Anniversary of the Anti-Saloon League Temperance Movement Leading to Prohibition and the Speakeasy

On May 24, 1893, the Anti-Saloon League was founded in Ohio. This was the beginning of the end of alcohol manufacture and consumption in the United States, or so it was thought.

The movement led to the 18th Amendment which prohibited alcohol and as you know, when something becomes illegal, people will find ways to get around it and continue to do the illegal act. With that, the Speakeasy was born.

This website will cover the Temperance Movement, Prohibition, the Speakeasy and other items related to the era. Hopefully, there is something interesting here for you.

Please feel free to participate if you would like and also please comment below, I would love to hear from you.

Creative Commons Photo Credit

Purple Star
Purple Star

"Prohibition has made nothing but trouble."

Al Capone

Music From the 1920s Prohibition Era - Click on the "Play" as you Browse

1892 Prohibition Convention in Ohio - One Year Before The Temperance Movement was Formed

1892 Prohibition Convention in Ohio - One Year Before The Temperance Movement was Formed
1892 Prohibition Convention in Ohio - One Year Before The Temperance Movement was Formed

Temperance, Prohibition, The Speakeasy and Repeal

The Anti-Saloon League started in Ohio in 1893. It was formed as a way to support temperance against alcohol and to try to enact a growing movement towards prohibiting alcohol or what we know today as "Prohibition."

There were numerous rallies and also attempts at legislation and it seemed that a lot of America was in favor of Prohibition. Famous individuals, such as Carrie Nation, led the fight against alcohol and its evils.

In 1918, the Temperance movement was won, at least temporarily. The Volstead Act paved the way for Congress to pass the 18th Amendment, making alcohol manufacture and consumption illegal in the United States.

During the period from 1920-1933, alcohol was illegally manufactured and consumed. Most do not know that auto racing and NASCAR actually originated from bootleggers who learned how to increase the speeds of their cars mechanically so they could outrun the law. They then decided to see who had the fastest cars by racing each other in fields.

During Prohibition, the Mafia and mobsters had illegal alcohol joints and these were named "Speakeasies." The term of "Speakeasy" is thought to have originated in the 1880's when some States had already enacted dry legislation and the owners of illegal bars told their patrons to "speak easy" so they would not be heard and cause the establishment to be shut down.

Depending on what historian you listen to, many think that Prohibition was one of the causes of the crash of the economy during the Depression era.

In 1933, Prohibition was repealed and the Temperance Leagues were dissolved.

Stock Car Racing and Prohibition

Were you aware that stock car racing originated during Prohibition?

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Temperance Protest in Washington D.C. in Support of Prohibition

Temperance Protest in Washington D.C. in Support of Prohibition
Temperance Protest in Washington D.C. in Support of Prohibition

The Original Untouchable Series on DVD

“Prohibition is better than no liquor at all.”

Will Rogers

Carrie Nation - Mother of Temperance at a 1902 Rally

Carrie Nation - Mother of Temperance at a 1902 Rally
Carrie Nation - Mother of Temperance at a 1902 Rally

1919 Sign Showing the Beginning of Prohibition After the 18th Amendment was Passed

1919 Sign Showing the Beginning of Prohibition After the 18th Amendment was Passed
1919 Sign Showing the Beginning of Prohibition After the 18th Amendment was Passed

Calumet City, Illinois

Hub of Illegal Activity During the Prohibition Era

During the Prohibition Era, Calumet City, Illinois was a hub for illegal activities. Al Capone actually had a home here and from 1919-1933, numerous bootleggers made their home here. It was easy to make a living in speakeasies, gambling and prostitution because the police were "on the take" and turned their heads to this illegal activity.

Long before Las Vegas, Calumet City was nicknamed the original "Sin City." After the repeal of prohibition, many of the speakeasies were turned into nightclubs. Most of these were run by organized crime and many were owned by Al Capone.

A Friend's Account of the Speakeasy in the Chicago Suburbs - Calumet City, Illinois

speakeasy
speakeasy

Creative Commons Photo Credit

When I was young, I lived in the Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois in the town of Calumet City. My interest in the Mafia and Mobsters stemmed from seeing the original episodes of "The Untouchables," on television starring Robert Stack.

My Grandmother lived within walking distance of downtown and an old boarded-up tavern. I used to be able to walk there and peer through the boards. Obviously, this was much later than the ending of prohibition but this tavern was used as a Speakeasy during the Prohibition period.

Looking inside, I saw the cash register at the end of the bar, old red chrome barstools and some drinking glasses on the bar. All was covered in a thick coat of dust and cobwebs.

I pictured, in my mind, a time when there were actually people in there. There was smoking, drinking and dancing. I still noticed a smell of stale smoke and what I believed to be alcohol seeping from the cracks and the old boards.

I imagined that all the men and women were in high fashion and the girls were "Flappers" from the Roaring '20s and I imaged some of them were Moll girls. The men were dapper and wore cufflinks in their shirts and their hair was worn slicked back. The people were carrying on with conversation as the music in the background played loudly. I imagined that the conversation was about illegal activity that they were planning and that the partying went on until the wee hours of the morning.

I used to think of this whenever I walked past that building and I still remember it to this day, although I have not been back there since the early 1970s and am doubtful if the building is still standing.

That experience and memory used to give me an eerie sensation, as a young girl, fantasizing about the corruption of the Underworld. In the early 1970s, when the Godfather premiered, I couldn't wait to go see it and it gave me flashbacks to that old abandoned building, that was once a Speakeasy.

Where is Calumet City, Illinois? - Heavy Mob and Speakeasy influences

A markerCalumet City, Illinois - Frequent Hangout of the Mob -
Calumet City, Illinois
get directions

"Liquor prohibition led to the rise of organized crime in America, and drug prohibition has led to the rise of the gang problems we have now. "

Drew Carey

Prohibition Agents Destroying Alcohol in Chicago

Prohibition Agents Destroying Alcohol in Chicago
Prohibition Agents Destroying Alcohol in Chicago

The Godfather Trilogy - 3 Film Collection

The Godfather Collection (The Godfather / The Godfather: Part II / The Godfather: Part III)
The Godfather Collection (The Godfather / The Godfather: Part II / The Godfather: Part III)

When thinking of Mafia, Mobsters and organized crime, most relate to these movies. Although only one part of this series was set during the Prohibition Era, the Family activity remained the same. If you study any part of Mafia or Mob history, you will see some similarities in real life that were the basis of this movie. What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than to put this in and watch it from the beginning. Amazon also makes you an offer you can't refuse.

 

Speakeasies in the 1920 - A Video History

Drinkers at a Bar in the Early 1930's

Drinkers at a Bar in the Early 1930s
Drinkers at a Bar in the Early 1930s

A Lady Named "Rhea," Hiding Her Flask in Her Garter During Prohibtion in 1926

A Lady Named "Rhea," Hiding Her Flask in Her Garter During Prohibtion in 1926
A Lady Named "Rhea," Hiding Her Flask in Her Garter During Prohibtion in 1926

Location of Coffee Dan's - The Most Famous Speakeasy in San Francisco

A markerCoffee Dans - San Franciscos Most Famous Speakeasy -
430 Mason san francisco california
get directions

"Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water. "

W. C. Fields

The Untoucables Movie - 1987 - Robert DeNiro, Sean Connery, Richard Gere

Untouchables
Untouchables

Although this is drawn from the original series, it is actually an excellent remake and a must-see. I actually just watched it the other day. The most classic scene, in my opinion, is the baby on the steps. I just gave you a taste, but won't give you the spoiler. If you have never seen this and you are either a fan of the Mafia, Capone-related movies or just love Deniro, Gere or Connery, this is one you can't miss. It is filled with action.

 

Billboard of a Prohibition-Era Soft Drink Developed When Alcohol was Banned - French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Billboard of a Prohibition-Era Soft Drink Developed When Alcohol was Banned - French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
Billboard of a Prohibition-Era Soft Drink Developed When Alcohol was Banned - French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Has the Current Marijuana Prohibition Been Useful Today?

What do you think of marijuana prohibition?

The 21 Club in New York City - The most elaborate Speakeasy - Tours Available

A markerThe 21 Club in New York City - Prohibitions Most Elaborate Speakeasy -
21 West 52nd Street new york new yorl
get directions

Vote Against Prohibition Sign in Baltimore, Maryland

Vote Against Prohibition Sign in Baltimore, Maryland
Vote Against Prohibition Sign in Baltimore, Maryland

Daily Flight to Bimini, Nassau, Bahamas - 1922 - The Closest Wet Spot to the USA During Prohibition

Daily Flight to Bimini, Nassau, Bahamas - 1922 - The Closest Wet Spot to the USA During Prohibition
Daily Flight to Bimini, Nassau, Bahamas - 1922 - The Closest Wet Spot to the USA During Prohibition

Repeal of Prohibition Newsreel

Were You a Fan of This Website - Wait for the "Applause" Sign, ok GO!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      I think it's the public's responsibility to make good decisions.

    • KateHonebrink profile image

      KateHonebrink 5 years ago

      So very interesting! Andrew Volstad, author of the Prohibition Act, was from the same small Minnesota town as I am from - Granite Falls. I believe there is (or was) a plaque erected in his honor.

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 5 years ago

      great lens :)