1920 doesn’t seem that long ago…for some of us anyway
These Events Happened a Century Ago
One More For The Road
By Tom Morrow
The Volstead Act, which became the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, took effect Jan. 16, 1920, 100 years ago making the consumption of alcoholic beverages illegal. The so-called “Prohibition” era caused more than a decade of crime primarily involving the smuggling and sale of illegal booze by illegal distilleries, smugglers, and Mafia gangs in every major city nationwide. Murder was rampant.
During the Great Depression Prohibition created millionaire gangsters such as Al Capone, “Bugs” Moran, “Dutch” Shultz and many others who were behind smuggling whiskey and rum from Canada, Cuba and Mexico.
The term “Bootlegging,” a favorite moniker used for someone who dealt in very portable liquor, began early in the days of Prohibition. Purveyors of booze would keep a bottle tucked in the top of their boot. As he encountered someone who wanted a quick drink the “bootlegger” would find a quiet, out-of-the way place, pull the bottle from his boot and provide the purchaser a quick snort.
As early as 1925, journalist H. L. Mencken believed Prohibition was not working, writing “Prohibition worked best when directed at its primary target: the working-class poor.” A rich family could have a cellar-full of liquor, but if a poor family had one bottle of home-brew, there would be trouble. Wine could be declared by families as necessary for “religious purposes.” Within a week after Prohibition went into effect, small portable stills and its product were on sale throughout the country. In some states low-alcohol beer was allowed.
Many wealthy families bought the entire inventories of liquor retailers and wholesalers, emptying out their warehouses, saloons, and club storerooms. This routine went all the way up corporate America and into the White House. President Woodrow Wilson moved his own supply of alcoholic beverages to his Washington D.C. residence after his term of office ended. His successor, Warren G. Harding, relocated his own large supply into the White House after inauguration.
The 18th Amendment was repealed in December 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment. Those days were, indeed, “Happy again.”
The Right To Vote
As hard as it is to believe, the women of the U.S. didn’t receive the right to vote until 1920, 100 years ago this summer. The right to vote for women, known as “suffrage” became a world-wide effort beginning in the mid-1800s.
Most major Western allied powers extended voting rights to women the period after World War I, including Canada (1917), Britain and Germany (1918), Austria and the Netherlands (1919) and the United States (1920). Today women can vote in nearly every country that has elections.
“Say It Ain’t So, Joe!”
The 1920 Chicago White Sox baseball team became known as the “Black Sox” for a game-fixing scandal in which eight members of team were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Reportedly the scheme was devised by noted mafia gambler, Arnold Rothstein.
Because of the scandal, Major League team owners appointed Judge Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis as the first Commissioner of Baseball for life, with absolute control over the sport in order to restore the game’s integrity.
Despite acquittals in a 1921 public trial, Judge Landis permanently banned all eight players from professional baseball.
Requests for reinstatement for the decades that followed (particularly in the case of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson), the ban remains to this day. Jackson, who was a hero to youngsters across America, could neither read nor write. Fans of Jackson maintained he was dupped into being a part of something he didn’t understand. One young White Sox fan confronted Jackson outside the Cook County Courthouse in Chicago lamenting: “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
A side-note to the Joe Jackson story: During the 1940s Joe worked in a small convenience store in Georgia. One day the legendary Ty Cobb came in for supplies. Nothing was said at first, then Cobb finally broke the silence, “Don’t you know me, Joe?” Jackson nodded his head saying, “Sure, Ty, but I figured you wouldn’t want to know me.”
“The Babe” Sold to the Yankees
Noted Boston Red Sox pitcher-slugger George “Babe” Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees for $125,000. Ruth’s yearly salary was increased from $10,000 to $20,000.