After the First World War

After the First World War the Unites States were in an even stronger economic position. The war disturbed the economies of its European rivals and U.S. companies were able to capture markets, which had previously been supplied by countries like Britain and Germany. U.S. companies also began to make full use of mass production. However, unrestrained economic growth created many serious problems. Some businesses became too big and powerful. The United States Steel Corporation, formed in 1901, was the largest corporation in the world. Such giant enterprises could produce and sell goods cheaply, but on the other hand they could also destroy smaller competitors.

The period of 1922 to 1933 in the USA was famous for prohibition, a period during which the production and sale of alcoholic beverages were illegal. Initially, it was supposed to lower crime and corruption, reduce social problems, lower taxes needed to support prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. Instead, illegal alcohol became more dangerous to consume, organized crime flourished, courts and prisons became overloaded, and corruption of police and public officials worsened. The roots of prohibition went bak to the early 1900s where there was a temperance movement originating in the public toward prohibition of alcohol. The movement was supported by rural Protestants, Anti-Saloon League, Democratic and Republican parties and Woman´s Christian Temperance Union. Many women became active in supporting prohibition believing it would protect families, women and children from the effects of abuse of alcohol. Prohibition began on January 16, 1920, when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution went into effect. Even though the sale of alcohol was illegal, alcoholic drinks were still widely available at speakeasies (a saloon or nightclub selling alcoholic beverages illegally) and other underground drinking establishments.

Large quantities of alcohol were smuggled in from Canada, overland and via the Great Lakes. In addition, the Prohibition era encouraged the rise of criminal activity, especially organized crime (gangsterism) often associated with bootlegging. The most notorious example was the Chicago gangster Al Capone, who earned a staggering $60 million annually from bootleg operations and speakeasies. Support for prohibition was waning by the end of the 1920s and with the country caught in the Great Depression, creating jobs and revenue by legalizing the liquor industry had an undeniable appeal. Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for president in the 1932 election and his victory meant the end for prohibition. In February 1933 Congress adopted a resolution proposing a 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th Amendement.