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  • Tom Marshall

America Dry: Prohibition in Colour

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

I was asked by the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington DC to colourise these images of Prohibition, perfectly capturing both the fashion and atmosphere of this fascinating chapter in American history.

In January 1919, American Congress passed the Eighth Amendment, outlawing alcohol and ushering in the infamous Prohibition era. Throughout the 1920s, the government worked to enforce Prohibition, although those who opposed the law found ever-creative ways to enjoy a drink. Bootlegging was rampant, as were stores and clubs who secretly served liquor. These became known as ‘speakeasies’, since customers had to keep their voices down to avoid attracting police attention.

Prohibition continued for 13 years, until it's repeal in 1933. On 22nd March 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act, known as the Cullen–Harrison Act, allowing the manufacture and sale of 3.2% beer and light wines, commenting at the time; “I think this would be a good time for a beer”.

In December 1933 the Twenty-first Amendment was ratified, making both the production and consumption of alcohol in America legal once again.

One of the many factors that influenced this decision was the Great Depression, which hit in 1930. The American government realised they could make millions of dollars by taxing alcohol.

© Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2014-2017

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition, c1921.

A man carrying a case of "Four Roses" whiskey on his shoulder, possibly confiscated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Bureau.

After a thrilling chase through the busiest streets of Washington, ... a couple of bootleggers and their car come to grief at the hands of the Capitol police, 21st Jan 1922.

'Bootleg' - Woman putting flask in her Russian boot, Washington, D.C, 21st Jan 1922. Interesting to note the swastika floor tiles, a popular luck symbol throughout the world before the outbreak of WW2.

Woman seated at a soda fountain table pouring alcohol into a cup from a cane, with a large Coca-Cola advertisement on the wall, 13th February 1922

Policeman standing alongside wrecked car and cases of moonshine, 16th Nov 1922.

Stop when you see this sign. This is the new insignia plate the Bureau of Prohibition has adopted for use by prohibition agents in stopping suspected automobiles. In the photograph, from left to right, are; Prohibition Administrator Ames Woodcock, H.M. Lucious, secretary of the Automobile Club of Maryland, and Ernest M.Smith, vice- president of the A.A.A., 30th August 1925.

Woman holding poster "Abolish Prohibition!" 1931. By now attitudes were beginning to change and many campaigned for prohibition to be repealed.

Women and the ballot box: Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. 1932
© Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2014-2017
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