First Advisor

David A. Horowitz

Term of Graduation

Fall 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Andrews, Lincoln C, Prohibition -- United States, United States Bureau of Internal Revenue



Physical Description

1 online resource (154 pages)


Using newspaper accounts, congressional testimony, and recently declassified personnel files, this thesis traces the institutional history of the Treasury Department's Prohibition Unit in the years 1925 to 1927. From its inception in I 920, the Prohibition Unit functioned as a constitutional morals police, signally extending federal authority into the area of states' rights, with consequent scandal and public criticism. In an attempt at reform, the Treasury Department in 1925 placed Customs, the Coast Guard, and Prohibition enforcement under a single commander: Brigadier General Lincoln C. Andrews, an efficiency expert and West Point graduate. Andrews' plan was to wage a two-front war against smuggling by sea and diversion of industrial alcohol on land. He sought to modernize enforcement by divorcing it from politics and by applying progressive reforms such as specialization, decentralized command, and undercover surveillance. In the field Andrews commanded a force of nearly 3,000 federal agents assigned to 24 districts, including Puerto Rico, the Hawaiian Islands, and the territory of Alaska. Hundreds of additional agents in Customs, the Border Patrol, and the Immigration Service patrolled the major port cities and the borders with Canada and Mexico. Offshore some 5,500 Coast Guardsmen on 300 vessels, armed with machine guns and small cannon, harried seaborne smugglers. The result was escalating enforcement violence, an official policy of misinformation that sought to stigmatize bootleggers as enemy aliens, and, most importantly, a shift from commercial alcohol as the national drink to illicitly distilled alcohol distributed by ruthless gangs. Despite Andrews' best intentions, his efforts continued the wave of national hypocrisy that characterized Prohibition in the 1920s, lowered public respect for law and order, and irredeemably tarnished progressive faith in the ethical nature of man. In its day, the Prohibition Unit received more press coverage than any other branch of government, with the exception of Congress, yet little has been written about its structure, operations, or philosophy which so closely resemble the later War on Drugs.


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