HBO’s critically acclaimed TV series Boardwalk Empire follows the lives of some of the United States’ most prominent gangsters of the 1920s. Set in Atlantic City during the Prohibition, the show’s gripping intrigue is heightened by its historical background. While the ‘20s are generally associated with the Glitz and Glamour of the Jazz Age, people often forget that the ‘Roaring 20s’ era was also one of restrictions. While it may sound incredible, alcohol trade and consumption was illegal in the United States for over a decade! Prepare for Boardwalk Empire’s arrival on Blu-ray and DVD with our top 10 facts about Prohibition.
Top 10 Facts About Prohibition:
– Prohibition lasted 13 years, 10 months and 19 days. The ban on alcohol began in 1920 with the ratification of the Volstead Act (also known as the 18th Amendment), which rendered all intoxicating liquors illegal, and was not repealed until December 5th 1933.
– Even though Prohibition ended 78 years ago, hundreds of dry counties still exist in the United States!

– The 18th Amendment is the only constitutional amendment that has ever been repealed by another amendment (the 21st Amendment). The Carolinas rejected the amendment, and a further eight states never ratified it!

– Establishments secretly serving alcohol became known as ‘speakeasies’. Some believe this was the call of a Pittsburgh bar owner to her patrons so as to prevent them from giving away her illegal establishment. Others think it was the hushed tones with which illegal drinks were ordered. Or could it be the whisper of a code word needed to gain entrance to an illegal bar?

– Prohibition was instated to decrease the crime rate on the belief that alcohol was at the root of the problem. It had the reverse effect, however, as violence, crime and corruption were at an all time high during those years. There was widespread disrespect for the law, and even public leaders gave into illegality as some were said to operate stills. New York City alone had about 30,000 speakeasies.
– Prohibition increased the popularity and spread of Jazz. Despite the many dire effects of Prohibition, the decadent atmosphere of speakeasies gave way to what we now refer to as the ‘Great Jazz Age’. Coming from southern states such as Louisiana, Jazz travelled across the United States via the underground network of speakeasies.
– Rumour has it that Joe Kennedy was involved in bootlegging. Though it was never confirmed, many suspect that John F Kennedy’s father took part in some kind of illegal alcohol trade. Indeed, Joe Kennedy made a lot of money during Prohibition and legally sold his large stock of booze for millions once Prohibition was finally repealed.

– In California, grape growers sold “Wine Blocks”. This means that they produced Vine-Glo grape juice with instructions to turn it into wine after purchase.
– The US government poisoned stocks of booze during Prohibition. In order to implement the ban of alcoholic beverages and prevent all illegal bootlegging activity, government officials decided to contaminate illicit stocks of alcohol. This resulted in the death, blinding or paralysis in thousands of citizens.

– Prohibition led to the emergence of gangster culture. Gangsters such as Al Capone and Busy Moran were at the heart of the nation’s thriving bootlegging activity. Earning a whopping $60 million a year, the breadth of their influence found very few limits and their political leverage was considerable. Gangster culture is largely responsible for the increase of violence as friction between opposing gangs caused many deaths.

– During Prohibition, Christian Temperance and Anti-Saloon activists decided to rewrite the Bible and remove all references to alcohol. Supporters of the Prohibition also wanted to eradicate all mention of alcohol for medical purposes in school books.
Learn more about Prohibition and the men who made the most of it in Boardwalk Empire – on Blu-ray and DVD January 9th.