December 5, 1933, Congress Repealed Prohibition But Beer Had Been Available Since Spring
Abe Kaufman, distributor for Wayne County, for Edelweiss in Detroit, lowering a case. Part of shipment of 5,400 cases. – April 1933 credit: Milton Brooks, Detroit News
As hard as it is to imagine, the sale and consumption of alcohol was illegal for 13 years in the United States. Though Congress repealed Prohibition on December 5, 1933, the Cullen-Harrison Act passed on March 22, 1933 allowed the resumption of production of (3.2%) low alcohol content beer and wine.
It only took a little while for manufacturers to begin brewing and bottling beer. Americans anxiously awaited being able to buy the beverage legally. By April 9 beer was available in many major cities like San Francisco, New York, Louisville and Chicago.
The effect on the Depression economy was immediate, 50,000 jobs were instantly created. Initial orders for brewery supplies and equipment tallied over $100 million. Frigidaire began making cooling units for draft beer. The Federal government and some states began taking in much needed tax revenue. Railroad commerce boomed with lines like the Chicago & Northwestern railroad serving Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Paul carrying between 30 – 50 carloads of beer per day.
But citizens of some states would not be so happy, because two thirds of the states allowed local jurisdictions to create their own laws regarding prohibition. Even after the Federal repeal of Prohibition, nearly 40% of Americans lived in areas with Prohibition. Until 1966 there were still state prohibition laws with Mississippi being the last to repeal statewide prohibition.