In the above image, men and women celebrate the end of Prohibition with drinks and flames as they set fire to the sign outlawing "intoxicating liquors."
Prohibition came to a screeching halt with the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution on Dec. 5, 1933.
For many revelers, the celebration had begun several months earlier when Congress revised the Volstead Act (aka the National Prohibition Act enabling federal law enforcement of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution) permitting the resumption of the manufacture and sale of 3.2 percent alcohol beer and wines. But by December, alcohol -- high and low-octane -- was legal once again, and people around the country celebrated.
Wisconsinites had, in fact, been enjoying alcoholic beverages for some time. In 1926, Wisconsin voters approved a referendum to amend the Volstead Act to allow the manufacture and sale of beer with 2.75 percent alcohol. And in 1929, voters repealed the Severson Act, Wisconsin’s Prohibition enforcement bill.
With these votes, it’s not surprising that the federal government found lax compliance among residents.
"Wisconsin ... is commonly regarded as a Gibraltar of the wets -- sort of a utopia where everyone drinks their fill and John Barleycorn still holds forth in splendor," so began Frank Buckley, of the Bureau of Prohibition, in his 1929 survey of Prohibition enforcement in Wisconsin -- perhaps the most amusing government report ever written.
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Popularly known as the Wickersham Commission after its chairperson, George W. Wickersham, the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement was created in 1929 as public concern over crime and lawlessness, fueled by media coverage of the gang wars in Chicago, grew.
On his tour of the state, Buckley visited the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he spoke with the assistant dean of women. She advised him “that she knew of no drinking or revelry on the part of the young ladies under her supervision.”
Buckley thought her hopelessly naïve.
At the opposite end of the state, Hurley "tucked away up in the wild lumber and iron section of northern Wisconsin, right on the Michigan State line, has the distinction of being the worst community in the State. Conditions in Hurley are not unlike those of settlements like Dawson City, Cripple Creek, El Dorado, Borger, and other boom communities. Gambling, prostitution, bootlegging, and dope are about the chief occupations of the place.”
Pledging to abide by the will of the people as expressed in the state’s referendums, U.S. Sen. John J. Blaine proposed a constitutional amendment for the repeal of Prohibition in December 1932. The U.S. Senate modified his resolution and passed the measure. On the afternoon of Dec. 5, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, bringing the requisite three-fourths majority to end Prohibition once and for all.