80 years ago today, the 21st Amendment to United States Constitution was passed, and 13 years of national Prohibition came to an end.
Prohibition was a dark time in our nation’s history. Not just because of the lack of legal booze, but because of the rise of violence and crime that it gave birth to. People went to extremes to secure alcohol, often by any means necessary. Organized crime rose up to replace the formerly legal methods of production and distribution – none more notorious than Detroit’s own Purple Gang. The Purple Gang ruled Detroit’s illegal alcohol trade. They were widely feared and often used extreme violence to keep their iron grip on Detroit’s bootlegging economy. They were finally brought down by the Collingwood Manor Massacre in 1931 – a crime so violent that it shocked the city.
Detroit was at the heart of the illegal alcohol trade. Experts estimate that 75% of all the illegal alcohol in the country during Prohibition crossed over the Detroit River – referred to as the Windsor-Detroit Funnel. By 1929 rumrunning was Detroit’s second largest industry, and even more liquor was produced in illegal distilleries in the metro-Detroit area. While this bootlegged alcohol was distributed around the country, Detroit was kept particularly well-stocked; in 1928 it was estimated that there were between 16,000 and 25,000 speakeasies operating in the Detroit area.Over the course of the 13 years of Prohibition, Detroit saw a loss of jobs that legal drinking used to provide coupled with increased violence and crime, and by 1933, they were sick of it. Michigan passed a state-level repeal, and was also the first state in the country to ratify the 21st Amendment and officially repeal Prohibition. The Amendment was finally ratified on December 5, 1933 when Utah voted to ratify and created the ¾ majority required.
So today, we celebrate a national coming to our senses moment, when the country realized that alcohol is a vital part of economies, and that the rich tradition of distilling is an art not to be compromised. It’s a perfect day to mix up a cocktail made with some New Holland or Two Birds Artisan Spirits Gin, Valentine Vodka, Grand Traverse Wheat Vodka, or Northern Latitudes Deer Camp Whiskey to celebrate our legal right to drink.