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Primary Documents in American History

18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Prohibition)

Destroying kegs of beer with an axe.
Putting a kick in the staid old Schuylkill here go a few barrels of beer -- not 1/2 of 1 percent -- into the Schuylkill River.
Underwood & Underwood, photographer, 1924.
Prints & Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:

The 18th Amendment (PDF, 91KB) to the Constitution prohibited the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors..." and was ratified by the states on January 16, 1919. The movement to prohibit alcohol began in the United States in the early nineteenth century. On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act (PDF, 2.03MB), which provided for the enforcement of the 18th Amendment. Prohibition ended on December 5, 1933, with the ratification of the 21st Amendment (PDF, 88KB).

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to1940

This collection of life histories consists of approximately 2,900 documents, compiled and transcribed by more than 300 writers from 24 states, working on the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program that was part of the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. Search on the subject Prohibition to find interviews that discuss this topic.

America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets

For most of the nineteenth century, before the advent of phonograph and radio technologies, Americans learned the latest songs from printed song sheets. The collection includes cautionary maxims about the hazards of alcohol, and critical responses to the temperance movement.

The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

The Songs of America presentation allows you to explore American history as documented in the work of some of our country's greatest composers, poets, scholars, and performers. From popular and traditional songs, to poetic art songs and sacred music, the relationship of song to historical events from the nation's founding to the present is highlighted through more than 80,000 online items. The collection includes an essay on the Songs of the Temperance Movement and Prohibition.

Search on the keywords temperance and prohibition to find sheet music on the temperance movement and prohibition. A selection of highlights includes:

Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

There are more than 28,000 items in the collection, including a number of items related to the prohibition and the temperance movement.

A selection of highlights includes:

Business Reference Services

Alcoholic Beverage Industry: Historical Resources at the Library of Congress

This guide focuses on the alcoholic beverage industry in the United States with a strong emphasis on historical resources, including a section on resources related to the Temperance Movement & Prohibition.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Chronicling America

This site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1789-1924. Search this collection to find newspaper articles about the 18th Amendment and prohibition.

A selection of articles related to the 18th Amendment and prohibition includes:

In addition, the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room has created a series of topics guides to the newspapers in Chronicling America, including the following guides: Carrie Nation, "Saloon Smasher" and Temperance Lecturer, Brewers’ Campaign Against Prohibition, and Prohibition.

Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation

The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (popularly known as the Constitution Annotated) contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law. This regularly updated resource is especially useful when researching the constitutional implications of a specific issue or topic. It includes chapters on the 18th Amendment and the 21st Amendment.

National Jukebox

The National Jukebox presents historical sound recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925.

  • Playlist: Temperance & Prohibition - With the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment and impending national prohibition of alcohol, Tin Pan Alley writers produced a plethora of songs about life devoid of intoxicating beverages.

Prints & Photographs

The Dry Years: Selected Images Relating to Prohibition from the Collections of the Library of Congress

These images were selected to meet requests regularly received by the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Pictorial Americana: Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress

Pictorial Americana, a Library of Congress publication, contains a chapter listing selected images related to the Temperance movement.

Search the Library's collections of prints and photographs to find additional images related to the 18th Amendment, prohibition, and the temperance movement.

A selection of images includes:

The Teachers Page

American Memory Timeline: Prohibition: A Case Study of Progressive Reform

This site discusses prohibition and links to related documents.

Today in History

October 28, 1919

On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act providing for enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified nine months earlier. Known as the Prohibition Amendment, it prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the United States.

December 27, 1900

On December 27, 1900, Carry Nation brought her campaign against alcohol to Wichita, Kansas, when she smashed the bar at the elegant Carey Hotel. Earlier that year, Nation had abandoned the nonviolent agitation of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in favor of direct action that she called “hatchetation.” Since the Kansas Constitution prohibited alcohol, Nation argued that destroying saloons was an acceptable means of battling the state’s flourishing liquor trade.


Prohibition in Washington D.C.: How Dry We Weren't

Prohibition ended in Washington, D.C. on March 1, 1934. The Washington Post reported that "Somehow, after 17 years without it, Washingtonians seemed to hold their liquor quite well." One reason might be that the nation's capital had been far from a model dry city, hosting up to 3,000 speakeasies since Prohibition began. As documented in a new book by Garrett Peck, even Congress had its own bootleggers, especially "The Man in the Green Hat."

External Web Sites

Alcohol, Temperance & Prohibition, External Link Center for Digital Scholarship, Brown University Library

Amendment XVIII, Prohibition of Liquor, External Link National Constitution Center

American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, External Link National Constitution Center

Indomitable Spirits: Prohibition in the United States, External Link Kentucky Digital Library and Digital Public Library of America.

Joint Resolution Proposing the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration

Joint Resolution Proposing the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration

Presidential Proclamation 2065 of December 5, 1933, in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces the Repeal of Prohibition, National Archives and Records Administration

Prohibition, External Link PBS

The Volstead Act and Related Prohibition Documents, National Archives and Records Administration

Selected Bibliography

Blocker, Jack S. American Temperance Movements: Cycles of Reform. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989. [Catalog Record]

-----. Retreat from Reform: The Prohibition Movement in the United States, 1890-1913. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976. [Catalog Record]

Brown, Everett Somerville, comp. Ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; State Convention Records and Laws. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1938. [Catalog Record] [Full Text] External Link

Clark, Norman H. Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition. New York: Norton, 1976. [Catalog Record]

Engdahl, Sylvia, ed. Amendments XVIII and XXI: Prohibition and Repeal. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Greenhaven Press, 2009. [Catalog Record]

Hamm, Richard F. Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment: Temperance Reform, Legal Culture, and the Polity, 1880-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. [Catalog Record]

Kerr, K. Austin. Organized for Prohibition: A New History of the Anti-Saloon League. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985. [Catalog Record]

Kyvig, David E. Repealing National Prohibition. 2nd ed. Kent: Kent State University Press, 2000. [Catalog Record]

McGirr, Lisa. The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2016. [Catalog Record]

Okrent, Daniel. Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: Scribner, 2010. [Catalog Record]

Sinclair, Andrew. Prohibition, the Era of Excess. Boston: Little, Brown. 1962. [Catalog Record] [Full Text] External Link

Younger Readers

Dunn, John M. Prohibition. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2010. [Catalog Record]

Hintz, Martin. Farewell, John Barleycorn: Prohibition in the United States. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1996. [Catalog Record]

Lucas, Eileen. The Eighteenth and Twenty-First Amendments: Alcohol, Prohibition, and Repeal. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1998. [Catalog Record]

Rebman, Renee C. Prohibition. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1999. [Catalog Record]

Woog, Adam. Prohibition. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2003. [Catalog Record]

Worth, Richard. Teetotalers and Saloon Smashers: The Temperance Movement and Prohibition. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 2009. [Catalog Record]

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  October 30, 2017
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