On December 5, 1933, America’s “great experiment” ended. The Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution was signed into law, putting an end to 13 years of Prohibition. Thus, each year on December 5, we celebrate National Repeal Day.
Beginning in the 19th century, organizations like the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and Anti-Saloon League began a “dry crusade” for the prohibition of alcohol. These organizations believed that alcohol was to blame for many of society’s ills, from domestic abuse to unemployment.
The temperance movement gained steam, and a new socially conservative political party, known as the Prohibition Party, formed to advocate for a nationwide ban on alcohol. In 1919, they succeeded, and the National Prohibition Act was passed over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson. The Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution went into effect in 1920, prohibiting the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages.
But things didn’t go exactly as planned.
Within a week of Prohibition’s enactment, portable stills were flying off the shelves. Savvy drinkers who had been following the Prohibition movement had been stockpiling their favorite spirits for personal use—including Presidents Wilson and Harding, who were both rumoured to have impressive stores of alcohol hidden in the White House during their Prohibition-era tenures. Thousands of underground bars and speakeasies opened for business.
In the court of public opinion, Prohibition was being crucified. Organized crime skyrocketed thanks to the thriving black market for beer and liquor. And there weren’t enough police on the streets to combat the rising tide of crime—without the tax revenue from the sale of alcohol, local governments were having a hard time paying for basic public services, infrastructure, schools and more.
By 1933, people had had enough.
On February 20, 1933, Congress proposed the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution, which would repeal the Eighteenth Amendment. Later that year, on December 5, the amendment was ratified by the requisite number of states, and became law. When Utah became the final state needed to pass the amendment, it only took Acting Secretary of State William Phillips 17 minutes to certify the amendment, and end Prohibition for good.
The end of Prohibition wasn’t just good for morale—it was also good for the country. Crime rates began to fall after hitting historic highs, and by some accounts, the end of Prohibition created half a million jobs for American workers.
So what’s the best way to celebrate National Repeal Day? The world is your oyster. Whether you head to your local watering hole, or decide to mix up some drinks at home, take a moment to give thanks that Prohibition is a thing of the past. Need a few ideas to get started? Here’s a list of some of the most popular mixed drinks—from timeless classics to new favorites.
Happy Repeal Day!
National Repeal Day is typically celebrated