The Fascinating History Behind Speakeasy Doors and How It Can Set Your Entrance Apart
The history of the United States is filled with all kinds of secrets and pockets of weird lore. Few periods of recent history, however, are more interesting to learn about than the brief span of time when the sale of alcohol was prohibited across the country.
The Prohibition Era, which lasted for thirteen years from 1920 until 1933, is one of the most fascinating periods in the history of the country. The ripple effect of the alcohol ban was wide-ranging, and it resulted in a wide number of speakeasies hidden nationwide.
Speakeasy doors proved to be quite useful during this time period, and the innovative design of the time remains aesthetically pleasing even today.
What is the history of the speakeasy and how will borrowing from this history help elevate the appearance of your property? Read on and we'll walk you through everything that you need to know.
Understanding the Prohibition Era
Most people's awareness of the Prohibition Era comes from watching old movies, or at least movies set during the 1920s. Mob films and other stories from this time were often centered around the shadowy fallout of Prohibition-era America.
But what was the Prohibition Era?
This piece of US history kicked off when the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified by congress. This amendment did something quite shocking for the time: it banned the manufacture, transportation, or sale of any kind of intoxicating liquor.
That means beer, whiskey, tequila, and any other alcoholic drink was banned within the borders of the United States. The law went into effect on January 17th, 1920.
Where did this all come from? Waves of religious fervor and moralism began sweeping across the country at the turn of the century.
Many felt that alcohol was a destructive force to the American family. The Anti-Saloon League, for example, campaigned hard against a drinking culture that they saw as unruly and corrupt. It was thought that to be a drunk was to be against God.
Many with power in cities and in government supported the idea of a ban as it would lead to a more consistent workforce and fewer accidents in the workplace. At the time, drinking at work was common.
President Woodrow Wilson saw the Amendment drafted and implemented under his term as President. It happened quickly, much quicker than many people assumed it would.
Once passed, the country would go through a time of great change.
Illegal Drinking and the Speakeasy
In a way, prohibition did yield some positive results. Drinking accidents and injuries in the workplace did decrease.
Of course, passing the law to ban the sale of alcohol was easier than enforcing it. While a great number of Americans supported prohibition, that didn't stop those who would prefer a drink from finding a way to get their hands on it.
Originally, it was the IRS that intended to enforce prohibition, but later an entire justice department had to be created just for the enforcement of prohibition.
In general, sympathetic small towns tended to have stronger enforcement than in urban areas where many saw the law as a nuisance.
Within months of the passing of the law, the illegal manufacture of alcohol had become a widespread craze. Bootlegging, as the practice came to be called, was quite common and hard to get a legal taper on.
Many were crafting new kinds of illegal liquor, known as moonshine. Moonshine was a pure and homemade whiskey that was extremely high-proof. Ironically, the popularization of moonshine meant that Prohibition had created heavier drinkers out of many people instead of ceasing the practice of drinking.
The mob and mafia rose as illegal drinking provided a need that could be filled outside of the law. Most notably, Chicago mobster Al Capone rose to an immense amount of power, making millions off of bootlegging.
How and Why Speakeasies Functioned
A wide number of outposts selling alcohol sprung up in secret locations across the country. This was the birth of the speakeasy as we know it. The average citizen would gain entry to one of these establishments and would purchase and drink illegal alcoholic beverages.
These speakeasies were hidden away, often in the backroom of other types of establishments. They were part of an underground economy and were careful about who they let in. Often, there was a password required for entry.
This would help to protect the speakeasy from the arrival of the police.
The actual identity of these speakeasies could vary greatly. They could be somewhat grand places with large dance floors and jazz bands, or they could be dingy backrooms lit only by candlelight.
Speakeasies helped to fuel the raucous and party-fueled spirit of the eras. Men and women drank together more frequently, and bar owners began to craft drinks that were specifically targeted to women.
Competing speakeasies would try to book better and better entertainment to draw in crowds from town, creating the modern entertainment experience as we know it today. The dating scene as we understand it today was also crafted out of this environment.
Even the modern cocktail was created from this scene, as speakeasy owners tried to dilute the taste of poorly bootlegged liquor with other drinks.
Single young people met in these speakeasies and hit it off. It was the modern nightlife scene that had not existed up to this point. Turning these establishments into secret outposts was all it had taken to create a new and exciting environment.
Avoiding the Law
How did such popular clubs and social venues avoid detection by the authorities? For one, many were poorly-kept secrets. Often, these speakeasies functioned outside of the law even with knowledge of their whereabouts by authorities.
Low-level authority figures from each town were often paid off by speakeasy owners to look the other way when it came to enforcing the new federal laws. The local authorities were often rewarded in all sorts of manners by the general populace to not take the laws too seriously.
These same local police officers often were the ones to tip off speakeasy owners if a prohibition raid was coming in soon from federal officers. From time to time, speakeasies would be raided, people would face a fine and arrest.
Speakeasy owners would go to great lengths to hide the evidence of their illegal activity. Creative construction and architecture were often a big part of speakeasy culture. Many speakeasy owners would have false floors and false walls created.
Behind these fake veneers would be secret entrances, storage places, and spots to hide. Alcohol would be hidden away so that it could not be found and used as evidence against the owners of these establishments.
The term speakeasy itself came from this secretive nature. The patrons of these types of establishments were expected to 'speak easy' about the nature of the venue. In other words, they were to keep the location and true nature of the establishment a well-guarded secret.
The End of Prohibition
The Prohibition Era lasted quite a long time. For over a decade, the federal and state governments of the United States attempted to enforce this practice of prohibition to the very best of their ability.
However, what initially was put in place as an attempt to better the moral standing of the country had led to increased degradation and corruption.
It's impossible to unlink Prohibition and the rise of organized crime within the United States. It was the need that the ban of alcohol created that led to the possibility of organized crime.
As time went on, more and more different gangs and organizations rose and attempted to gain control of the bootlegging market. Violence continued to disrupt between these various gangs and the authorities. This violence shocked many across the nation and even excited others.
At a certain point, the federal government realized that the prohibition band was doing more harm than good for the country. As the 1930s began to chug into motion, the government decided to lift the ban and allow drinking to proceed legally once again.
Barrooms became licensed again and would need to face taxation by the American government. In fact, it was this taxation itself was another strong reason for the lifting of the ban. The government realized the popular sale of alcohol could help benefit the country's wealth.
At this point, the culture of the country had been changed dramatically.
There was no going back to the way things were before. Prohibition changed America, and this era remains one of the most iconic in American history all the way into the modern age.
Speakeasy Doors for Your Home
If you're a lover of history, there are many good reasons to consider bringing some of that history to your own property. One way that some homeowners do this is to embrace some of the popular iconographies of the Prohibition Era.
If you've seen photos or films from the 1920s, you've likely seen evidence of the speakeasy doors that we mentioned previously. These speakeasy doors were used to keep the secret barrooms away from prying eyes.
They often featured a small metal latch that could be opened from the inside and allow a watchdog to the lookout. They could quiz incoming patrons for a password or information without revealing what went on behind closed doors.
These speakeasy doors look cool and iconic, and bringing some of the coolness to your own home can help elevate the overall appearance. They go great with Old World-inspired furniture.
Installing a Speakeasy Door
If you have the right kind of door, a speakeasy door is very simple to install. A wooden door will make the task even simpler. In addition, a wooden door helps to maintain the classic 1920s look and often pairs best with the speakeasy metal door.
However, that being said, they can work great with any kind of door. Most speakeasy doors are somewhat customizable, so you can choose from a variety of styles and layouts for whatever will fit the vibe you are going for.
Some come in the form of grills as opposed to doors.
You may even want to purchase a full door that already has the speakeasy door installed. Depending on the current door you have in place, this may be simpler in achieving the aesthetic look that you are going for.
In addition to looking great, there are other benefits you might be able to reap from your speakeasy door. They make a great conversation piece for guests, especially those who might be interested in learning more about the Prohibition Era.
You also can enjoy the same security benefits that those back in the 1920s did. You'll be able to greet your guests before giving them entry. That allows you a safe and secure position when it comes to entry to your property.
At the end of the day, if you're looking to bring some of the Old World charms back to your home, there's no better way to do it than with a speakeasy door.
Understanding Speakeasy History
If you're interested in installing one or more speakeasy doors in your home, then you'll want to get familiar with the history that surrounds these iconic frames.
The above is just a basic overview of prohibition and the speakeasy scene that led to the birth of some of the iconic images we know today.
Need more information about speakeasy door installation? Contact us anytime for assistance or aid.