By 1908, Elder Heber J. Grant had begun to lead LDS lobbying on behalf of Prohibition. By 1917, Utah had joined the ranks of the “dry” states, and on January 16, 1919, Utah became the 35th state to ratify the 18th Amendment. In October of that year, the Volstead Act implemented the Amendment, and alcohol was banned in the U.S.
I saw part of Ken Burns’s documentary on Prohibition the other day, and one thing really stood out to me: the 18th Amendment was made possible by . . . the 16th. See, prior to 1913, some 30-40 percent of the government’s revenue came from excise taxes on alcohol. But the income tax provided an alternate (and effective) manner of raising revenue for the federal government. (In fact, Prohibitionists were big supporters of the introduction of an income tax.[fn2]) With the alternate source of revenue, the government had no compelling reason to oppose Prohibition.
When Prohibition ended, it ended over President Grant’s objection. Why did it end? I imagine that, among other things, people wanted to drink and were tired of the violence. But it also ended shortly after the Great Depression, when income tax revenues plummeted and the government realized that it was leaving a significant revenue stream on the table.
[fn1] Yes, I know that today is April 17. When the 15th falls on a weekend, income taxes are due the first subsequent business day. And April 16, which was Monday, is Emancipation Day, a holiday in D.C. So today is Tax Day, at least for federal purposes. (Illinois taxes, on the other hand, were due yesterday.)
[fn2] Note that, notwithstanding the connection between Prohibitionists and the federal income tax, either Utahns weren’t Prohibitionists in 1913, didn’t understand the connection between Prohibition and the nice tax, or didn’t care. Utah was one of four states that rejected the 16th Amendment and never subsequently ratified it.