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July2006
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Very Dry Years

Say the word “prohibition” and most Americans will think of the time when, in 1919, the 18th Amendment of the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors within … the United States.” The 21st Amendment, ratified in 1933, repealed Prohibition. The period when alcohol was banned spawned its own subculture of speakeasies, bootlegging and backyard stills.

Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, full-length portrait, standing, facing right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition Hooch Hound, a dog trained to detect liquor (as suggested to Commissioner Haynes by a prohibition agent in Colorado), sniffs at flask in back pocket of man, seated, fishing on pier on the Potomac River

The Prints and Photographs Division has assembled a small collection of images related to this period of U.S. history, called “The Dry Years.” Today, dogs are used to sniff out illegal drugs. In those days, dogs were trained to detect illegal alcoholic beverages, as seen in the image “Hooch Hound.”

More than 1 million images from the extraordinary and wide-ranging collections of the Prints and Photographs Division are now available online in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. There is also a “What’s New” section that pulls together some of the most interesting images, organized by various subjects, such as World War I posters, Benjamin Franklin and the historic Willard Hotel – whose lobby was the inspiration for the word “lobby” being used as a verb referring to activities aimed at influencing public officials.


A. [Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, full-length portrait, standing, facing right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition], 1920. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-123257 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: NYWTS - SUBJ/GEOG--Prohibition--General <item> [P&P]

B. [Hooch Hound, a dog trained to detect liquor (as suggested to Commissioner Haynes by a prohibition agent in Colorado), sniffs at flask in back pocket of man, seated, fishing on pier on the Potomac River], 1922. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-96300 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: LOT 12294, vol. 2, p. 28 <item> [P&P]