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Prohibition
Police and prohibition officers

The Bureau of Prohibition (or Prohibition Unit) was


the federal law enforcement agency formed to
enforce the National Prohibition Act of 1919.

The Bureau of Prohibition’s main function was to


mostly stop the selling and consumption of alcohol.
Agents would be tasked with taking down illegal
bootlegging rings and became notorious in cities
like New York City and Chicago for raiding many
popular nightclubs. Agents were often paid low wages and the Bureau was notorious for allowing
many uncertified people to become agents. Doing so strengthened the bureau as they would now be
able to hire more agents. Despite this there weren't enough Prohibition agents to enforce the law -
only 1,500 in 1920

Federal Prohibition agents raided speakeasies, arresting both owners and customers. It was
common for police to be bribed by speakeasy operators in order to operate or be given advance
notice about raids during 1920s' Prohibition.

In the public opinion, the Bureau agents were not


perceived as positive people. Bureau agents were
supposedly notorious for killing innocent bystanders that
were caught in the middle of gunfights between them and
bootleggers. Also, the public did not like the fact that
Bureau agents were able to wire tap phones. Many cases
have been reported of citizens lashing out at agents such
as a woman scratching an agent in his face after pointing
his gun at her.

Even though Prohibition agents were tasked with stopping the consumption of alcohol, many were
viewed as easily corrupted. During the early stages of Prohibition, it was alleged that some agents
accepted bribes in exchange for turning a blind eye to bootlegged liquor, mainly as a result of
relatively low wages. It was also rumoured that many agents drank the very alcohol which they were
charged with confiscating.
Speakeasies
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Under 1920s' Prohibition, those with ties to organised crime commonly operated speakeasies. A
speakeasy was a liquor establishment where alcoholic beverages were sold and consumed during
Prohibition. To order alcohol without drawing attention or raising suspicion, bartenders asked
customers to remain quiet and "speak easy." Speakeasies were numerous; some had food, floor
shows, and live bands playing 1920s' Jazz while people danced the Charleston.

To enter a speakeasy, one would need to say a password to the doorperson so that the doorperson
would know whether or not they were really secret agents. It has been said that for every legal
saloon before Prohibition, at LEAST half a dozen speakeasies were put up AFTER Prohibition.

The people involved with speakeasies mainly revolved around gangs, who supplied the liquor, in
particular Al Capone and his gang. People went to these speakeasies, or as a means to get alcohol
after Prohibition came into effect. The bartenders were often working with gangs, as well as the
owners of the establishment, in concealing these hidden saloons. The owners often acted as
doormen to the speakeasies, accepting the passwords to enter within the walls of the hidden bar,
and got paid a fine profit for their efforts.

Speakeasies were found everywhere in the United States of America and Canada. Whether they
were established underground, or hidden within stores and other businesses, in every urban
establishment you entered, you were most likely not far off from an illegal party. The number of
speakeasies in New York City was between 30,000 and 100,000 during the 1920’s.

To transport liquor to the speakeasies, people used hip flasks, false books, coconut shells, hot water
bottles, and garden hoses. People stored the illegal liquor in carriages with babies perched on top
and in carpenter’s aprons. There were even men caught hustling liquor over the border in boxes of
eggs. They had drained the eggs of the original contents and refilled them with liquor.

In between all of the wild parties going on behind closed doors, the illegal transportation of liquor,
and the skyrocketing of gang activities, Prohibition and the Speakeasies that resulted were definitely
some of the most secretive and rebellious things to happen in the 1920s.