North Dakota became the fourth state to ratify the 18th Amendment to the Constitution on this date in 1918, following Mississippi, Virginia, and Kentucky. The 18th Amendment, also known as the Prohibition Amendment, forbade the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol into or within the United States.
North Dakota entered the Union as a prohibition state in 1889, having such clauses set out in the original State Constitution. The state’s inhabitants were therefore already practicing alcohol prohibition for nearly thirty years by the time the 18th Amendment was adopted by Congress in December of 1917. Although several other states were selectively prohibitionist, national prohibition became a cause only at the turn of the 20th Century. Wide-scale temperance movements sprang up across the country, and became largely associated with many women’s suffragist groups, such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Although many Senators were secretly against the Amendment, popular movements led by their constituents, advocating the benefits of a dry society, pressured the politicians to vote in favor of prohibition. With two-thirds of Congress passing the proposal, the only hurdle left was to obtain ratification from thirty-six of the then forty-eight states. Although many congressmen believed the Amendment would never be ratified within the seven years required in order to become law, forty-four state legislatures ratified the Amendment in only thirteen months. The law became official on January 17, 1920, with prohibition set to begin a year later – a delay written into the Amendment in order to “soften the blow” to the liquor industry and give employees and businessmen time to find a new line of work. However, in many areas it became a time to stockpile liquor and drink copious amounts before the coming dry spell. Not so in North Dakota, however, where abstinence had been the long-standing rule.
Then, after almost 13 years of prohibition, on December 5, 1933, the 18th Amendment became the only Constitutional Amendment to be overturned. The 21st Amendment legalized alcohol across the country, including in North Dakota.
Pickett, Deets and Clarence True Wilson, and Ernest Daily Smith (eds.), The Cyclopedia of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals. New York & Cincinnati: The Methodist Book Concern, 1917.