Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Business Support for Prohibition and Its Repeal

January 1, 2004

My project examines the economic history of alcohol prohibition, focusing on the role of business interests in helping to enact and then repeal Prohibition. The project grew out of a hunch that business played a more important role in Prohibition than is commonly realized, with much of that support stemming from self-interest. While Prohibition may have had its roots in rural temperance movements and likely benefited from a perceived need for wartime efficiency and from anti-immigrant sentiment at the time, business interests and their considerable clout may still have been critical to passage of the Prohibition amendment. Industrialists, although relative latecomers in the crusade, seem to have viewed alcohol prohibition as a welcome complement to their own efforts to raise productivity and reduce labor strife. By the early 1930s, the rampant flouting of Prohibition and the apparent rise in crime seem to have convinced business leaders that enforcing Prohibition was futile and that keeping it on the books would be detrimental to their interests.

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