Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Prohibition never was very popular. Critics charged that it not only encouraged crime and social disorder through the illegal trade in alcohol, but gave the government too much power over people's lives. The Democratic Party endorsed the repeal of the 18th Amendment and its presidential candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt, won handily in the election of 1932. The 21st Amendment to repeal the 18th was ratified the following year, although some states, mainly in the South, retained prohibition for decades more. Mississippi became the last state to repeal it in 1966. An excerpt from The Post of Dec. 6, 1933:
The eighteenth amendment and National prohibition came to an end at 5:32 p.m. yesterday.President Roosevelt, proclaiming prohibition repealed at 6:55 p.m., called on the Nation to cooperate with the Government to destroy the bootlegger and to prevent the return of the saloon -- "either in its own form or in some modern guise."
Mr. Roosevelt asked the cooperation of all citizens to the end that "this return of individual freedom shall not be accompanied by the repugnant conditions that obtained prior to the adoption of the eighteenth amendment and those that have existed since its adoption."
"Failure to do this honestly and courageously," he added, "will be a living reproach to us all."
Expressing confidence that the good sense of the American people will restrain from an "excessive use of intoxicating liquors," President Roosevelt declared the objective he sought was the education of every citizen toward a greater temperance.
The President's proclamation, which automatically set revenue machinery in motion to yield approximately $225,000,000 annually in taxes, was issued after Acting Secretary of State William Phillips certified that as a result of the actions earlier in the day of conventions in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Utah, the twenty-first or repeal amendment to the Constitution had been ratified.
Utah, the thirty-sixth State -- making the necessary three-fourths vote, voted at 5:32 p.m. after delaying for three hours. Immediately the eighteenth amendment and the Volstead act -- except in Federal territory for the latter -- became invalid and in 19 States establishments selling intoxicating beverages were able legally to swing open their doors.
In many large cities "repeal" parties celebrating the death of prohibition were held in clubs, restaurants, hotels and cabarets. While the liquor at these affairs was "legal" it was doubtful whether much of it was authentic. The lateness of the hour of repeal seriously impeded deliveries of the genuine liquor.
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