Prohibition, March 2, 1928

Jane Addams' Speech at Kalamazoo,
on March 2, 1928.


The total quantity of alcoholic liquor consumed, even in big cities, is less than before prohibition. One reason is, that the old saloon custom of treating has gone. Formerly, it was customary in many places, when a group of men were in a saloon, that every man in the group treated every other man. If there were ten men, every man had ten drinks and paid for ten, through the treating system. A saloon keeper whose place was opposite Hull House fixed a limit of ten treats; no man was allowed to treat more than ten times, or to take more than ten drinks in a succession of rounds of treats.

After the prohibition amendment was published, people assumed that it would be in force. As a result, for two years there was little attempt to break the law. The immediate result was a betterment of home life in homes where formerly ↑the husband↓ had been a drinker. The pay envelope came home and was handed to the wife unopened. More children went to school. The colleges filled rapidly. Then liquor-making began; the making of liquor, which began at the expiration of the first two years of legal prohibition, has the same history as any other industry. It began in a small way in the homes. Women did a great deal of the actual work. This soon began to have an effect on home life, where the manufacture was carried on. The sale of liquor brought strange men into the house, who stayed late. Juvenile officers and social workers soon noticed effects on the minds of children. Women who made and sold liquor began to be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of [page 2] children. This affected a great many homes, for the manufacture was quite a general home industry in some localities. In Maxwell Street market in Chicago, small stills were piled up at the shops and stands by hundreds ready for sale. The domestic manufacturers themselves often saw and regretted the effects produced upon the children by this home traffic. However, they were usually unwilling to give up the business because qui they were making more money than they had ever made before. Sometimes children were sent to relatives, sometimes they were sent to boarding schools.

Manufacture in the home was fairly easy to conceal, but selling was more difficult, and to avoid prosecution the sellers had to have police protection. The requirement of police protection led to the organization of the sellers in order that the best bargains might be made with the police of the vicinity. Sometimes the organizations were largely of people of one nationality. As a rule, only one organization of this kind could exist without trouble in any one neighborhood. Wherever there were two organizations in the one neighborhood attempting to sell and to get police protection, trouble developed which led to murder, or violence.

The next step in the development of manufacture was that it began to be carried on by groups of the original manufacturers on a larger scale. It was partly taken out of the hands of women; one reason for this was that women could not defend themselves from the [hijackers]. The [hijackers] were organized gangs, who robbed the liquor manufacturers or sellers. They had [page 3] an advantage over other criminals because they could not be prosecuted. There two were two reasons for this; in the first place the liquor manufacturer was, and is, in no position to make a legal complaint. In the second place, liquor is a contraband article. A truck upon which liquor is carried may be seized by a bandit gang. To escape prosecution, the gang abandons the truck and carries off the liquor, as they could be prosecuted for possession of the truck. At different times three such abandoned trucks have been found in the alley which runs between the buildings of Hull House. In the second stage of manufacture where the work was done by men portions of old warehouses have been the favorite places for manufacturing operations. Many warehouses in the center of the city are partly empty, due to the fact that business firms may be establishing larger warehouses farther from the center of population, and the old ones near the center of the city are l may be less used than formerly. In this second stage of manufacture, there must not only be police bribery but there is organized armed protection of the manufacturing places by the manufacturers themselves. This brings in another feature that corrupts child life; boys are frequently the look-outs, and sometimes the boys are armed. They not only learn to defend lawlessness by violence but they learn to give and take bribes.

In the third stage of manufacture, the small factories carried on by small groups of men are being concentrated into places with a larger production and more extensive and better organized transportation and selling equipment. The bribery [page 4] concerned man not many of the policemen on the beat, but possibly the precinct police organization and the ward politician, and may even extend as far as the City Hall. One disadvantage that develops with the concentration of the industry into larger units is that the manufacturing plants are more readily discovered.

The supply of liquor in the big cities is apparently increasing. The social effects have gradually become visible. Previous to prohibition united charities found in ten thousand five hundred cases that the cause which brought the family to the charity organization was in four thousand two hundred and ninety case intemperance. In the first two years of prohibition the number of cases attributable to [drunkenness] became almost negligible. Recently the proportion is almost as high as it was previous to prohibition. During the first two years the alcoholic ward in the County hospital was closed, and the section of the County jail where inebriates were confined was almost empty. Now these places are both open in use and going strong, but not as strong as before prohibition.

Among wage earners, homes are now better than they were years ago; they are better kept, there are more radios and other luxuries. Prohibition is perhaps one cause of this, but there may be other causes.

At present the greatest amount of liquor sold in the Chicago district reaches the consumer through retail selling establishments located outside of the city limits wherever the local officials are easy to corrupt. [page 5]

Some observers now think that there is as much liquor being handled in the large cities as there was before prohibition. This can hardly be true. At the worst, there is probably not more than forty [percent] of the former supply. Irving Fisher calculates that the supply is now thirty [percent] of what it was formerly.

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