Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry Program


The Prohibition-era presents a story of both continuity and change. While the illegal alcohol manufacturing and selling that occurred during the period was not an aberration from the past, the resultant increased wealth and sway of the criminal underworld and the increasing disrespect for the law were new transformations. This dissertation seeks to understand the informal economy in alcohol by examining the multitude of men and women who participated in this black market in the city of Chicago, Illinois. The analysis describes the movement from small-time bootleggers operating within a narrow market to the development of a complex and hierarchical network of alcohol distribution that spanned across neighborhoods and outside the region. This illicit exchange of booze affected both culture and identity and became closely aligned with politicians and enforcement officials.

Demonstrating how places of illegal alcohol production and consumption spread geographically into new territories, this dissertation shows how market-based crimes in Chicago moved from segregated "vice districts" to impact much of the city. Disrespect toward the law and authority increased as Prohibition proved a failure. The study concludes with an examination of how residents increasing opposed the Eighteenth Amendment as a method to remedy the numerous criminal and social disruptions it had caused. By providing an analysis of the larger underground market during the Prohibition-era in Chicago, the dissertation considers the problems associated with legislating morality and offers a novel framework to study other informal economies.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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