History

The Prohibition Act was The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Volstead Act became the regulatory ways and means for enforcement of the Amendment, and became law-of-the-land taking effect on February 1, 1920.


The Volstead Act was promulgated to control the manufacture, transportation, import, export, delivery, and possession of intoxicating spirits. Citizens were prohibited from manufacturing, producing, buying, or selling intoxicating spirits except as authorized by the Act – thus solving, or so they thought, the nations’ scourge, poverty, crime, unemployment and violence towards women and children along with all other evil abuses of mankind.


The Act began a phase of new regulations treading on the practice of medicine.  Physicians were using alcohol for the treatment of diabetes, cancer, asthma, dyspepsia, snake bite, lactation problems and old age. The encroachment of Congress over the rights of physicians to treat their patients created a ground swell against Governmental interference. Ironically, the U.S. Treasury Department provided legal certificates to physicians who could then provide, free of charge, medical prescriptions, allowing the well-to-do and politically connected access to alcohol. Ironically, a pharmacy authorized to fill those prescriptions’ for a fee, was located just five blocks from the U.S. Capital.


Treasury Department Prohibition Certificates

Prohibition, “the great noble experiment,” totally failed to prevent the consumption of alcohol and led to waves of crime, murder, mayhem, riots, violence, non-taxed alcohol use and predictably, political corruption.  Ultimately, common sense and the demand for tax revenues proved more desirable, thus ending the Prohibition Act with passage of the Twenty First Amendment in 1933 – making it the only time in American history that one Amendment was repealed by another..!!


An excellent reference point and complete summary of the Prohibition and Volstead Acts are located at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_in_the_United_States

Chicago

There was and is… so much crime in Chicago there isn’t enough space on the Internet to include all the facts about Chicago crime.

The Pharmacist

The origin of the Prohibition medical prescriptions is a fascinating story of its own, but the history of the pharmacy that undoubtedly provided high-proof spirits to the political elite was Sirota’s Pharmacy, just a few short blocks from the U.S. Capital. Pharmacy operated on the corner of Third and G Streets NW, from 1921 to 1957 and it was this pharmacy from which the Prescription Certificates offered here were obtained.

237 G. Street NW Washington, DC.

237 G. Street NW Washington, DC.

The current collections of the actual certificates were purchased from an Antique shop in Damascus, MD. How they got from Sirota’s Pharmacy to the Antique shop is still being researched. The certificates themselves and all of the details, information, articles, maps and such, were the origin and point of interest for this website.

Sirota’s Pharmacy filled prescriptions, had a soda fountain, and sold candy, toiletries, and cigars. Pharmacists mixed not only medicines, but apparently made a root beer soda famous for masking the taste of castor oil. Unlike other pharmacies with soda fountains, Sirota’s didn’t have a full counter, just a table with a few chairs, where customers could enjoy their sodas or ice cream.

The pharmacy’s founder and owner, Irving Sirota, immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe in the early 1910s. During World War I, he served as a medic in the famous “Lost Battalion” in Frank’s Argonne Forest and received the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery. Upon his return home, he attended pharmacy school in Brooklyn and eventually came to Washington. For 14 years, Sirota lived above the store with his wife, Esther.

Esther and Irving Sirota sold the pharmacy in 1957 and retired to Miami Beach. The pharmacy became a liquor store until the entire block was demolished to make way for a new Interstate Highway.