Friday, December 05, 2008

Dictionary Friday: Volstead

Volstead Act
The Volstead Act, which reinforced the prohibition of alcohol in the United States of America, was popularly named after Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversaw its passage. However, Volstead served as the legislation's sponsor and facilitator rather than its author. It was the Anti-Saloon League's Wayne Wheeler who conceived and drafted the bill.

The bill was vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson (largely on technical grounds, because it also covered wartime prohibition) but overridden by Congress on the same day, October 28, 1919. The Act specified that "no person shall manufacture, sell, barter, transport, import, export, deliver, furnish or possess any intoxicating liquor except as authorized by this act". It did not specifically prohibit the purchase or use of intoxicating liquors. The act defined intoxicating liquor as any beverage containing over 0.5% alcohol and superseded all existing prohibition laws in effect in states with such legislation. The combination of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the laws passed under its authority became known simply as "Prohibition" and enormously affected United States society in the 1920s (popularly known as the Roaring Twenties).

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, officially, the Volstead Act. Seems like a good reason to celebrate, no? Also seems like a good day to head to Volstead's in Federal Hill, huh?

Also, how cool is this? It's an article from the April 15, 1921 NYT about a Maryland member of the House of Representatives calling for the repeal of the Volstead Act.

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