On January 17, 1920, brewing and selling alcoholic beverages became illegal in the United States as the 18th Amendment to the Constitution went into effect. This “noble experiment,” as described by its backers, was celebrated by temperance advocates across the country. Before a crowd of 10,000 people, popular evangelist Billy Sunday (a former baseball player) said: “Tonight, one minute after midnight, a new nation will be born … An era of clear ideas and good manners begins. The slums will soon be a thing of the past. Prisons and reformatories will be emptied; we will transform them into attics and factories. Again, all men will walk straight, all women will smile, all children will laugh. The gates of hell have closed forever.”
Prohibition would last for more than a decade, but the “new nation” promised by Sunday and others like him never arrived.