10 Unusual Facts You Didn’t Know about the Prohibition Era

For those who lived in the Prohibition Era, life was rough. Thanks to strict laws prohibiting alcohol consumption, there was no way to get a drink without sneaking into an illegal establishment (a speakeasy, “blind pig”, or “blind tiger”).

Of course, when we enjoy the Roaring 20s parties we throw at JD Parties, most of us have no idea just how truly hard it was to find a speakeasy unless you were “in the know”. We love to kick back and have a good time dancing, partying, and enjoying the drinks that became so popular in the 20s.

We’ve found the most common misconceptions and misunderstandings about the Prohibition Era. Here are 10 facts we—and probably you—didn’t know about the Roaring 20s:


1. Prohibition didn’t actually outlaw drinking

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This is a common misconception. During Prohibition, drinking itself wasn’t actually against the law. What was illegal was the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol.

The Volstead Act was the legislature that led to the 18th Amendment, and there was nothing in it about not drinking. It simply banned the commercial side of things. People who drank didn’t break the law, only those who produced, shipped, and sold the alcohol!

2. It was surprisingly easy to find alcohol

Prohibition showed the Federal Government just how woefully unprepared they were to stop alcohol! There were only around 3,000 Federal Prohibition Bureau agents operating around the country.

Given how easy it was for alcohol to be smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico, Cuba, the Caribbean, and even Canada, the government was never truly able to shut down the alcohol pipelines.

3. It almost became a military operation

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Henry Ford, the renowned automobile manufacturer, had an idea for how to effectively manage Prohibition: let the U.S. Army and Navy handle it.

We’re glad that never came about, but imagine what would have happened had the U.S. military stepped in and enforced the laws!

4. Prohibition continues to this day

It may be hard to believe it, but there are a surprising number of “dry counties” still existing in the United States today. Almost 100 years after the official repeal of Prohibition, there are an estimated 16 million people living in counties where the sale of alcoholic beverages is illegal.

People living in these counties have to drive farther to obtain alcohol legally, which has often led to an increase in impaired driving. Alaska, Texas, and Mississippi are the states with the highest number of dry counties.

5. The phrase “The real McCoy” comes from Prohibition days

the real McCoy
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Captain Bill McCoy was a rum-runner (transporter of illegal rum, usually from Cuba or the Caribbean) known for his integrity. Unlike other runners, he didn’t water down his liquors, but instead sold them at full strength.

When people said the alcohol was “the real McCoy“, it meant that it hadn’t been watered down and thus was high quality alcohol. The phrase quickly caught on, and has persisted to this day. We know that anything called “the real McCoy” means “a product of high quality”.

6. There were loopholes that allowed alcohol to be bought and sold

Three of them, in fact. Farmers were allowed to make hard cider, as it was a way of preventing their hard work (fruit) from going to waste. Jews and Catholics were permitted their sacramental wine, and were thus allowed to purchase wine.

Alcohol was also allowed to be used for medicinal purposes (which was why so many remedies included whiskey). Most people took advantage of these loopholes whenever possible.

7. Bathtub gin wasn’t always made in bathtubs

The term “bathtub gin” is believed to refer the low-grade moonshine/gin that is made in dingy, dirty locations. But the original bathtub gin had nothing to do with distilling in bathtubs.

In fact, only the bathtub taps were used, as most kitchen taps were too short to fill the growlers (large bottles) that held the gin. The big growler bottles were filled in the bathtub rather than in the kitchen, and thus the name “bathtub gin” was born.

8. Women drove the Prohibition

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At least, they were a major force behind it. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union played a significant role in the establishment and enforcement of the 18th Amendment.

In addition to their famous signs (“Lips that Touch Liquor Shall Not Touch Ours”), they also taught that people who drank beer and alcohol would die from the swelling of the organs or body.

Their goal: create a world that was “sober and pure”.

9. Speakeasies were terribly common

The larger the city, the more speakeasies there was operating within city limits. While rural areas tended to have more moonshiners, cities like New York, Miami, and Chicago had thousands of speakeasies.

In fact, it was estimated the New York City alone has upwards of 30,000 speakeasies operating at the height of Prohibition. That’s a lot of people clamouring to get their hands on alcohol!

10. Prohibition made cocktails famous

Most drinkers before the 1920s would drink their alcohol straight, either with an ice cube, a twist of lime, or a splash of water. But that was high quality alcohol, not the lower-quality stuff that became more common during Prohibition days.

Rum-runners and bootleggers often brought in poor quality liquors from Mexico, Cuba, and the Caribbean, so speakeasy owners began to mix in other ingredients to the alcoholic drinks to hide the poor flavours. As a result, dozens of cocktails were invented, and cocktails became the more popular choice of alcoholic beverage at bars and clubs.


Such a fascinating time, wasn’t it? It goes to show: when people really want something, they’ll do whatever it takes to get their hands on it!

We’re glad they did, because the Roaring 20s makes for one heck of an epic party theme. Between the elegant outfits, the delicious cocktails, and the exclusive vibe of a speakeasy, we have everything we need to turn your Christmas party in Birmingham into an amazing event!

What did you think of these tips? Did you learn something new, or did you know all these?

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