He described an underground city of amateur bootleggers largely untouched by organized crime, and outlined the efforts of local authorities to put them out of business. Peck traced the main trends and forces that brought prohibition into being, including the rise of anti-Catholic and anti-German sentiment across the country, the passage of a federal income tax in 1913, which made the U.S. government less reliant on liquor taxes, and, the success of the women’s suffrage movement, which had formed a powerful alliance with the temperance movement. Peck also noted that Congress imposed a ban on intoxicating beverage sales in Washington, D.C. before prohibition was adopted nationally, on the mistaken assumption that the capital would serve as a “dry” model for the rest of the country.
A frequent public speaker on the social history of alcohol, Peck is also the author of The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet. His Temperance Tour of Prohibition-related sites in the nation’s capital has been featured on C-SPAN’s Book TV.