Good Times Coming Back Again: 30 Images Of The End Of Prohibition

Published April 12, 2017
Updated January 25, 2019

When the end of Prohibition finally came in 1933, America launched perhaps the biggest impromptu party the country had ever seen.

The End Of Prohibition
A woman poses on top of barrels of beer as Prohibition ends in 1933.Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Celebrating The End Of Prohibition
A crowd of people comes out to Times Square to celebrate the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

New York. December 1933.
Tom Watson/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images

Washington First Legal Beer
The first legal case of beer arrives at the White House.

Washington, D.C. April 1933.
New York Times Co./Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dry Days Are Ending
Workers at a brewery unload thousands of crates of beer, getting ready for the end of Prohibition.

New York. April, 1933.
Keystone/Getty Images

Farewell 18th Amendment
The patrons at a bar in New York hold up their glasses, toasting the death of the 18th Amendment.

New York. December 1933.
Imagno/Getty Images

Belmont Grill Celebrates Repeal
Crowds of people swarm outside of the Belmont Grill, waiting for its doors to open so that they can taste their first legal drop of liquor in 13 years.

Los Angeles. December 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

Cleaning Beer Tanks
Men clean a huge beer tank in preparation for the end of Prohibition.

New York. 1933.
Imagno/Getty Images

License Line
A huge group lines up outside the Board of Health offices in New York for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.

April 14, 1933.
Keystone/Getty Images

Rolling Barrel
Men and women celebrate the repeal of Prohibition by rolling a barrel of alcohol down the street and toasting the 18th Amendment's demise.

Chicago. December 5, 1933.
Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Uncovering Bottles
Workers unload cases of liquor from marble blocks, which were used to conceal alcohol, on a pier following the repeal of Prohibition.

Brooklyn. October 31, 1933.
New York Times Co./Getty Images

Customs Declaration
Arthur Ernstahl, the first person to bring liquor into the U.S legally after the repeal of the 18th Amendment, declares two bottles of cognac to customs inspector Leo Shettel after arriving in New York on December 5, 1933, the day of the repeal.New York Times Co./Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Makeshift Street Bar
Customers buy beer at a makeshift bar on the street after the repeal of prohibition.

Location unspecified. November 10, 1933.
FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Many People Raising Glasses
A crowd salutes the camera, holding up their drinks at a newly-opened bar.

Location and date not specified. 1933.
Flickr/Kent Wang

Jean Harlow Christens Beer
Actress Jean Harlow christens the first legal bottle of beer at midnight in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles. April 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

We Want Beer
The protests that brought beer back. Workers take to the streets, calling for the end of Prohibition.

New York. 1930.
Imagno/Getty Images

End Of Prohibition Dance
The patrons at the Senator Hotel fill the room with music and dancing.

Los Angeles. November 1933.
California State Library

Eastside Brewery Prepares Kegs
A worker at the Eastside Brewery gets the shipment ready for the first day of legal liquor sales.

Los Angeles. 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

Truck Leaving Brewery
The first truck load of beer to leave New York exits the Jacob Rupperts Brewery.

New York. 1933.
Bettmann/Getty Images

Fight Prohibition Car
A car covered in slogans joins in a parade calling for the end of the 18th Amendment.

Sonoma County, California. 1932.
Sonoma Library

Eastside Brewery Preparing
An employee at the Eastside Brewery clears the cobwebs off of a wagon full of liquor. For the past 13 years, they've only been able to sell soft drinks and non-alcoholic near-beers.

Los Angeles. 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

Malamute Saloon Girls Drinking
Three girls hold up their drinks, celebrating the repeal of Prohibition.

Los Angeles. November 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

Sloppy Joes Bar
Bartenders at Sloppy Joe's bar pour a round of drinks on the house for their smiling customers.

Chicago. 1933.
American Stock/Getty Images

Repeal The 18th Amendment
A woman shows off the sign on the back wheel of her car, calling for the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

January 1927.
Library of Congress

Party Celebrating Prohibition Ending
People celebrate at the Club Airport Gardens, holding up the skeleton of the 18th Amendment.

Los Angeles. November 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

End Of Prohibition Celebration
A crowd of people at the College Inn celebrate the end of Prohibition.

Los Angeles. November 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

Carrying Liquor Into Malamute
A worker carries a keg of beer into the Malamute Saloon, getting ready for the crowds that will come flooding in. The sign outside his store advertises that they are the "First to Open in 13 Years."

Los Angeles. 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

Group At Senator Hotel
The first patrons at the Senator Hotel hold up their drinks.

Los Angeles. November 1933.
California State Library

Malamute Saloon Serves Drinks
Bartenders serve the first customers at the Malamute Saloon.

Los Angeles. 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

Man Carrying Whiskey
A man carries a case of whiskey over his shoulder.

Date and location not specified.
Library of Congress

Happy Days Here Again
A crowd of people at the Belmont Grill holds up their glasses and toast to their first legal drink in 13 years. The Belmont Grill's slogan, celebrating the end of Prohibition, was, "Happy days are here again."

Los Angeles. December 1933.
Los Angeles Public Library

The end of Prohibition was an incredible, inimitable moment. Jubilant crowds gathered as liquor flowed through the streets of the United States. People crawled out from the dark of the speakeasies and out into the open, raising their glass and drinking a toast to their first legal drop of alcohol in 13 years.

Since January 17, 1920, the 18th Amendment had made it illegal (medicinal and religious exemptions aside) to drink or sell any beverages containing at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume anywhere in the United States.

The law led to lawlessness. A new wave of criminals met the new need for illicit alcohol and plagued the country for more than a decade.

But in 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt finally brought the end of Prohibition -- but not necessarily for reasons you might think. At that time, America had been raked over the coals by the Great Depression. People were starving and struggling and, when the people had nothing, the government had nothing to tax. Roosevelt’s administration brought alcohol back, hoping to bring money back into the government via taxation and thus kick-start the economy.

Nevertheless, the end of Prohibition didn't come all at once, but instead in stages. First, on March 22, 1933, it became legal to sell drinks that had four percent alcohol by volume or less. The people could drink again – even if it was only light beers and wines. Then, On December 5, 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed entirely and people could truly drink again.

People came out in droves, forming massive crowds outside bars across the country. Inside, people danced, sang, and raised their glasses in a toast to the death of the 18th Amendment.


Next, have a look at legendary photographer Weegee's images from the New York City gang wars of the post-Prohibition era. Then, allow this map to show you all the world's countries, ranked by alcohol consumption.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer, teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked, and can be found on his website.