chapter  6
New York City in the 1920s
Pages 27

The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Volstead Act or simply “Prohibition,” became effective on January 16, 1920, at a stroke criminalizing the export of intoxicating liquors and the home brewing of beverages with over half a percent of alcohol. America was offi cially and comprehensively “dry.” However, “The Volstead Act,” as Behr remarked, “was hopelessly inadequate, because it grossly underestimated both the willingness of the law-breakers to risk conviction . . . and the ease with which the law-breakers would be able to subvert all those who job it was to enforce it.”1 “The job of the Prohibition Bureau,” Sinclair similarly reported, “was to enforce the impossible.”2 The Bureau was hopelessly understaffed and became riddled with corruption.3