The culmination of nearly a century of activism, Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. But the enshrining of a faith-driven moral code in the Constitution paradoxically caused millions of Americans to rethink their definition of morality.
Thugs became celebrities, responsible authority was rendered impotent. Social mores in place for a century were obliterated. Especially among the young, liquor consumption rocketed. Skirts shortened. Music heated up. With Prohibition in place, but ineffectively enforced, one observer noted, America had hardly freed itself from the scourge of alcohol abuse – instead, the “drys” had their law, while the “wets” had their liquor. The story of Prohibition’s rise and fall is a compelling saga that goes far beyond the oft-told tales of gangsters, rum runners, flappers, and speakeasies, to reveal a complicated and divided nation in the throes of momentous transformation.
This interactive map, populated with facts about this contentious time in U.S. history, was produced by the team behind PBS' upcoming documentary film series "Prohibition" directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The series will raise vital questions that are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago – about means and ends, individual rights and responsibilities, the proper role of government.
In the map below, click on the martini glasses for "wet" facts; upside-down bottles are "dry" facts. Similarly, the handcuffs pertain to "lawless" facts, while the gavels represent facts about the "law" during the era. Zoom in and move the map, particularly in areas like the Northeast, where pinpoints are most densely populated. Have fun—and tune in to PBS' "Prohibition" premiere on Oct. 2, 3, and 4 on PBS at 8 EST.