A Staggering Spectrum
The Gilded Age was approximately from 1870-1900. In the years after the Civil War, America entered into an era of unprecedented advancement in both industry, technology, and travel. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869 with much-needed improvements, making cross-country travel and expansion easier. The boom in rail travel made the railroad executives and their related business partners, such as steel and shipping tycoons, very, very rich.
These men were there for the birth of the nation’s booming industrial expansion, and so were early winners in the game of control. All of the major industries were ripe to hold monopolies in their areas of business. But when power goes unchecked, abuses will certainly follow. The Gilded Age displayed both magnificent wealth alongside abject poverty in a staggering spectrum of the haves and have-nots.
“Woman herself must do this work; for woman alone can understand the height, the depth, the length and the breadth of her degradation." - Elizabeth Cady Stanton
While NJ was the first state to allow women the right to vote in 1790, that right was stripped in 1807. Women could not vote again in NJ until the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. Monmouth County saw its share of social reform movements as suffragists embraced the call to action, "Deeds Not Words."
Nothing But Trouble...
Al Capone once famously said, "Prohibition has made nothing but trouble." There was a push by the "Bone-Drys" to ban alcohol, while the "Wets" wanted to leave the decision to drink alcohol to the individual. The contentious era began with the passing of the 18th amendment in 1919, banning the manufacture, sale, and or transportation of intoxicating liquors. The Volstead Act laid out the specifications for how this would be implemented in 1920.
Where there is a will - and there was a big will - there is a way. The ban resulted in a boom of bootleggers who illegally produced and transported the booze, and the “Roaring 20s” exploded with a colorful underground culture of speakeasies (secret drinking establishments), liberated flappers, moonshine, rum runners, and a rise in organized crime. In short, it didn’t quite work out the way it was intended to, and was overturned in 1933.
Prohibition was known as President Herbert Hoover’s “noble experiment.” It was not a new idea - temperance groups have existed in America since the late 18th century. The measure can be looked at as a well-meaning attempt to reduce crime and help curb the social issues that stem from alcohol and alcoholism, or it can be viewed as a government overreach on the personal liberties of Americans.