The Prohibition Pioneer: Uncovering the Life and Legacy of Andrew Volstead

The history of America is dotted with personalities who have left a lasting impact on society. One such personality was Andrew Volstead, the man behind the Volstead Act, popularly known as the National Prohibition Act, which outlawed the production, distribution, and consumption of alcohol across the United States. Although much has been written about the act, not much is known about the man who gave it life. In this post, we uncover the life and legacy of Andrew Volstead, the prohibition pioneer.

Early Life and Education

Andrew Volstead was born on October 31, 1860, in Kenyon, Minnesota, to Norwegian immigrants. His parents were farmers, and Volstead grew up on a farm. He attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in science in 1881. He later studied law and was admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1884.

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Political Career

Volstead began his political career as a prosecuting attorney for the town of White Earth, Minnesota, and later represented the Fifth Congressional District of Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1903 to 1923. He served in various capacities during his tenure, including as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where he worked on drafting the Volstead Act, which became law on October 28, 1919.

Prohibition Era

The Volstead Act, aka the National Prohibition Act, was the culmination of decades of efforts by temperance activists and prohibitionists to curb alcohol consumption across the United States. The act outlawed the production, sale, and transport of intoxicating liquors and imposed stiff penalties on violators. The law proved to be divisive and spawned illegal bootlegging, speakeasies, and organized crime.

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Later Life and Legacy

Volstead’s political career came to an end in 1923 when he lost his seat in Congress. After his defeat, Volstead practiced law and served as a Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1930 to 1933. He died on January 20, 1947, in Granite Falls, Minnesota.


Q1. Who was Andrew Volstead?

A. Andrew Volstead was a politician and lawyer who represented the Fifth Congressional District of Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1903 to 1923. He is best known for drafting and championing the Volstead Act, which became law on 28th October 1919.

Q2. What is the Volstead Act?

A. The Volstead Act, aka the National Prohibition Act, was a federal law that prohibited the production, sale, and transport of intoxicating liquors across the United States. The law became effective on January 16, 1920, and was repealed in 1933.

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Q3. Why was the Volstead Act Passed?

A. The Volstead Act was passed to curb alcohol consumption in the United States, which was seen as a social evil that led to poverty, domestic violence, and other societal ills. The act was supported by temperance activists and prohibitionists who believed that banning alcohol would improve public health and morality.

Q4. What was Prohibition Era like?

A. The Prohibition Era was a period between 1920 and 1933 when the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages were banned in the United States. The era was characterized by widespread violation of the law and the rise of organized crime.

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Q5. Why did the Prohibition Era Fail?

A. The Prohibition Era failed because it led to the proliferation of illegal liquor sales and organized crime. Many people, including politicians and law enforcement officials, were corrupted by the lure of easy money from bootleggers, who smuggled alcohol from Canada and other neighboring countries.

Q6. What is Andrew Volstead’s Legacy?

A. Andrew Volstead’s legacy is the Volstead Act, which is seen as one of the most significant pieces of federal legislation in American history. Although the act was ultimately unsuccessful in its goal of curbing alcohol consumption, it had a profound impact on American society and politics.

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Q7. How is Andrew Volstead Remembered Today?

A. Andrew Volstead is remembered today as a dedicated public servant who worked tirelessly to improve society. His work on the Volstead Act and other legislation helped to reform America’s social and political landscape.


Andrew Volstead was a man who played a pivotal role in shaping American history. His work on the Volstead Act, which outlawed alcohol, had far-reaching consequences that are still felt today. Although the act failed to achieve its intended goal, it initiated a social change that transformed American society. Today, Andrew Volstead is remembered as a man whose work had a profound impact on the course of American history.

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