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Prohibition in a Wide Open Town

Prohibition went into effect nationwide at midnight January 16, 1920. This law made it illegal to make or sell liquor (including beer and wine), but Americans drank anyway, going to secret clubs or “speakeasies” or making "bathtub gin" at home. Alcohol could be obtained legally only with a doctor’s prescription. Organized crime, or mobs, cropped up to supply the alcohol to the many customers demanding it all across the country.

In Atlantic City, Prohibition was essentially unenforced by the local authorities. Atlantic City was a well-known haven for those seeking alcohol. The tourist-based economy of the resort encouraged business owners to provide whatever was needed to make the visitors happy. The city's beachfront location and docks allowed rum-runners to bring their goods onto shore. Add in a powerful city boss who allegedly controlled everything from the smuggling operation to the law enforcement to the restaurants where alcohol was served, and Atlantic City was essentially a wide open town, flagrantly violating the federal law.

Experience life in Atlantic City during Prohibition by exploring the exhibits below. Check back often, as more information will be added!