A number of towns and states passed laws banning alcohol sales during the first years of the twentieth century. And in nineteen nineteen, the nation passed the eighteenth amendment to the federal constitution. This amendment, and the Volstead Act, made it unlawful to make, sell or transport liquor.
Prohibition laws failed terribly from the start. There was only a small force of police to enforce the new laws. And millions of Americans still wanted to drink liquor. It was not possible for the police to watch every American who wanted to buy a drink secretly or make liquor in his own home.
Not surprisingly, thousands of Americans soon saw a chance to make profits from the new laws. They began to import liquor illegally to sell for high prices.
Criminals began to bring liquor across the long, unprotected border with Canada or on fast boats from the Caribbean islands. At the same time, private manufacturers in both cities and rural areas began to produce liquor. And shop owners in cities across the country sold liquor with little interference from local police.
By the middle of the nineteen twenties, it was clear to most Americans that Prohibition laws were a failure. But the laws were not changed until the election of President Franklin Roosevelt in nineteen thirty-two.