So we’ve talked about Omertà and other stuff which made up the mafia, but what exactly started the organized crime which is The American Cosa Nostra? Well that answer’s pretty simple: The Prohibition.
First of all, ‘The Prohibition’ was a law which banned all sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcohol. The Prohibition found it’s beginning on January 19th, 1920, caused by a wave of religious revivalism which hit the US during the 1920s.
This law served to stop Americans from drinking, however the prohibition is considered a failure as instead it made them experts when it came to making alcohol. The Prohibition caused an immediate decline in amusement and entertainment industries. Restaurants and theatre revenues declined; the closing of alcohol industries forced many people out of employment and onto the streets. Also on a national level, the prohibition cost the US government billions of dollars which they lost from alcohol taxes and even more as they enforced the prohibition.
As time passed, Illegal liquor trade under the prohibition began turning millions of American citizens into criminals and to add to that, law enforcement also found its consequences: police were frequently bribed or shown opportunities to become bootleggers themselves. Besides the bribing, some cities more than others, was poorly reinforced thus making it even more simple for bootlegging to occur. The idea of business and crime connected together obviously motivated gangs and so, organized crime began to emerge, hence the Mafia.
This period saw the introduction of names like Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, who is considered the ‘father of modern organized crime’ in the US after initiating the Commission and splitting New York into the five families. Mentored by Arnold Rothstein who immediately saw the potential windfall from Prohibition and who saw to educate Luciano on bootlegging as a business, Luciano teamed up with Frank Costello and Vito Genovese to start their own bootlegging operation with financing from Rothstein.
The Prohibition was taken into account also in pop culture. A big example of this, is the TV series Boardwalk Empire (HBO), 2010-2014. Especially in the beginning of the series, the happenings of the series revolve directly around the prohibition era. The protagonist known as “Nucky Thompson” played by Steve Buscemi, represents real-life “Nucky Johnson” who was the treasurer of Atlantic County, New Jersey; however he controlled it as a political boss. Nucky was a corrupt and powerful politician who lead a double life as a gangster, and so struggled to lead this double life of his. We surely won’t be using this space for advertising because of course we are not affliated with any network. However, This ad right here is great for you guys to understand more what the series is all about and how all of it starts here: The Prohibition!
The Prohibition lasted 13 years and is said to have been a complete failure. When the Mayor of Berlin, Gustav Boess, visited New York City in 1929, one of the questions he asked Mayor James J. Walker, was when Prohibition was to go into effect. The problem was that Prohibition has already been the law of the United States for nearly 10 years. This was surely a sign of this failure.