Author: Anna Ridgeway

To understand how prohibition led to an explosion in organized crime during the 1920's and into the 1930's, and to assess and factor the impact this had on US society.

Gangsters of the 1920's

The formation of gangsters and gangs can be traced back to the 18th Amendment, which put into affect Prohibition. The new law effectively made criminals out of millions of Americans, who refused to obey. Gangsters thrived off the creation of new 'black markets' and made hundreds of millions of dollars, whilst creating an atmosphere of fear and violent retribution against those who dared to challenge them. They paid off politicians, judges and the police to protect themselves, whilst leading wild and extravagant life styles. Ultimately, gangs and gang activities led to a massive expansion of the powers of Federal Bureau of Investigation and the creation of other law enforcement agencies.

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The learning outcome of this tutorial is for you to have a deeper understanding of why and how organized crime developed during the period of prohibition.  You will be able to factorize and exemplify the ways in which US society was impacted.

It is designed to cover two homework sessions.

Source: Mrs Ridgeway


This documentary lasts for 1hr 36min so you may want to complete this activity in two parts.

Watch this documentary and take notes on the following factors:-

  • Social Conditions
  • Political Environment
  • Economics 
  • Cultural Influences

Source: Mrs Ridgeway

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Worksheet Activities

Source: Mrs Ridgeway

(OPTIONAL) Notorious Gangsters

Use this link to explore in further detail some of the most notorious gangsters of the 1920's and 1930's.