Title

PHOTOS: The Strange Goings-On in Prohibition-Era Los Angeles

On January 17, 1920 fourteen years of Prohibition began. What began as a movement to curb alcohol primarily in churches soon gained popularity outside of the church halls. By October 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act, which defined how the prohibition of alcohol would actually be implemented. At first, Prohibition seemed to do as it was meant to: create a better, safer society. Fewer alcohol-related arrests occurred and hospitals reported less liver and liquor related diseases. But it wasn’t long before the criminal underground exploited the Prohibition. People were also resorting to distilling their own alcohol; their primitive techniques and lower-quality products put many drinkers in hospitals and did more harm than good. There are no firm numbers to back up the level of alcohol consumption during that period, but some say that most cities were wetter than ever. By February 1933, Congress passed the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th amendment and ended Prohibition. Here are some photos from that short-lived era.

Click right and left to browse through the photos:

Parade of the Departed | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
During the Parade of the Departed, men dressed up as liquor bottles and walking spirits. Some spirits featured were rye and whiskey. | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
Christmas liquor with the bootleggers' labels | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
During Prohibition, some enterprising gifters made their own alcohol, which wasn't always a welcome gift. These holiday liquors often contained poisons like choral hydrate to add "kick." There was no known antidote for it, however. | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
A victim showing effects of benzine blisters to clinic attendant | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
Impure alcohol often resulted in injuries like "blister booze," which appeared days after the liquor is drunk. This photo shows the effect of benzine blisters on the hands. | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
$150,000 worth of liquor seized during the Christmas holidays | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
During the Christmas holidays, attaches of the sheriff's office under Captain James Benton poured down the drain $150,000 worth of liquor, or about 50,000 parties' worth of alcohol. | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
Police dog arrested during Prohibition | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
When the district attorney's dry squad raided a liquor cache, they didn't find any suspect but a police dog on guard. Officers arrested the dog and tried tracing the dog's owner through its license tag. In the photo are Officer om McNary with the "arrested" dog. | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
Officer William Barry making inventory of uncut liquor valued at $62,000. | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
Officer William Barry makes an inventory of uncut liquor valued at $62,000. | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
Whiskey found in bootlegger's car | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
When instruments on a dashboard wouldn't work, Federal prohibition agents took a second look. They found a secret compartment on the back of a "dummy" instrument board. The compartment was made by partitioning the gas tank and 12 pins of whiskey were found. | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
Radio used by rum runners | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
A secret radio station in San Francisco was supposedly the center of a Pacific Coast rum ring. The station allegedly flashe code messages to rum runners off Southern California. | Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
Learn more about Prohibition in Los Angeles on "Lost LA" S4 E3: Bootlegger Tunnels - A Journey Through LA's Prohibition Lore

Story continues below

Source 

Chaffee, Keith. “A Week to Remember: Prohibition.” A Week to Remember: Prohibition. Los Angeles Public Library, January 14, 2019. https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/blogs/lapl/week-remember-prohibition.

We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading

Full Episodes