some intriguing legends to the contrary, the beginnings of Prohibition did not seem so grim. Several states had been dry for six years, several others for more than a decade. Citizens of some regions had taken a local option before the turn of the century, and to them the Volstead Act was only a belated confirmation by the national government of their early wisdom. When the war sublimated the movement for social purity into the moral equivalent of patriotism and national defense, it swept away the worst of the old-time debaucheries in prostitution and gambling, and with them the worst of the old-time saloons. Only a few people regretted the passing. William Randolph Hearst, who often thought he knew what was best for Americans, signed an editorial in 1919 praising the 18th Amendment because it would abolish "half the misery of half the people." Liquor, he wrote, "had destroyed more each year than the World War destroyed." Possessed still by the passions of national glory and unity, he concluded that "the suppression of the drink traffic is an expression of the higher morality upon which we are now entering."
This expression began with the closing of saloons and barrooms at midnight, January 16, 1920. (Should a barroom continue illegally as a "speakeasy" thereafter, the entire building in which it operated might, like a bordello, be declared