Prohibition Website Reviews

My topic is the Prohibition Era of the 1920s. Each one of the websites I have picked focuses on a different aspects of this period. The first website I have chosen looks at the effects Prohibition had on the people of Chicago, while the other two looks at the topic from a border perspective.

First Website:

The first website I will look at is The Impact of Organized Crime in the City of Chicago by Taylor Hales and Nikolas Kazmers. This was made as a final project for their English course at the University of Michigan in 1994. The site looks at Chicago during the Prohibition Era with specific examination of the corruption that went on in the city at this time. The site also looks at how the literature about Chicago during this period was influenced by this corruption, even if not all of the corruption was real.

Being a final project the primary audience were the fellow students and teacher of the course. But with it being on the web the secondary audience would be anyone, with access to the Internet.

The search tool capabilities of the site are okay but I ran into some serious problems with them. The citations of the images and quotes are linked to the Bibliography page, but I was not able to go to the places where the authors found their material because the links on that page were not activated. [[Endnote]] Taylor Hales and Nikolas Kazmers, “Annotated Bibliography”, The Impact of Organized Crime in the City of Chicago, http://www.umich.edu/~eng217/student_projects/nkazmers/bibliography.html (accessed February 19, 2014). [ So I had to manually cope and paste the sites to see if they were still there. Some of the sites are still there while others are not. There was even one case where the site for one image was the wrong one, it was concerning Al Capone’s brother.[[Endnote]Hales and Kazmers, http://www.umich.edu/~eng217/student_projects/nkazmers/capone2.html.[[/Endnote]]

In terms of the documentation the site uses material from books that use Prohibition Era Chicago as a setting. Such books include Richard Wright’s Native Son, James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan, and etc.[[Endnote]]Hales and Kazmers, http://www.umich.edu/~eng217/student_projects/nkazmers/prohibitionlit.html.[[/Endnote]] The site also uses images that were taken during this period. The citation is in MLA style and it’s handled effectively. The placement of the images is alright but there is a problem concerning the size of the page. Only half of the screen is used which makes everything look constraint. While not a major problem it is noticeable.

With regard to the images, I’m confined that they are genuine even if I had to search for them. The text surrounding the images is poorly constructed. The authors spend a lot of time talking about the city of Chicago and its history, but they really give only one page dedicated to the discussion of the literature about the city.[[Endnote]]Hales and Kazmers, http://www.umich.edu/~eng217/student_projects/nkazmers/prohibitionlit.html. [ While it is important to talk about the city and the key players during this time, like Al Capone, there is no balance here with regard to the themes. [[Endnote]Hales and Kazmers, http://www.umich.edu/~eng217/student_projects/nkazmers/organizedcrime1.html. [[/Endnote]]. Even-through they do tie the two themes together at the end it does not justify the lack of focus the website has.

Overall, this site is the worst of the three in my opinion. There are good images and a great premise, but it falls apart in practice because they talk more about the city than the literature. If they would have given the two themes equal amount of attention or, if they did not have much material on the literature, they should have cut down the history aspect to give both sides equal focus.

Second Website:

The next website I will discuss is Temperance and Prohibition. The site was made by Professor Austin Kerr of the Ohio State University Department of History in 1996, and was redesigned by Mitchell Shelton in 2006. The site is concerned with the early days of the Prohibition movement. It looks at key figures who were involved in the movement like Frances E. Willard, and organizations like the Anti-Saloon League. They do go into the 1920s a little with items such as a copy of a physician’s prescription form to legally obtain alcohol, but its primary about the early years of the movement. [[Endnote]] Austin Kerr, “Medicinal Alcohol”, Temperance and Prohibition, last modified 2006, http://prohibition.osu.edu/american-prohibition-1920/medicinal-alcohol , (accessed on February 19, 2014). [[/Endnote]].

Being a product of the history department of a school the site’s primary audience are the students of the campus, but anyone with access to the web can view it.

In terms of search tools this site is much better than the Chicago one. The two sites do have links build into their text that takes you to other pages for though discussion on important items or people. But the main difference is this site has working links to other sites. Given that the site was made by the history department of the university and it was updated in 2004 means the links have been maintained. Some of the links takes the viewer to sites about The Ohio Dry Campaign of 1918. [[Endnote]]Kerr, “Table of Contents”, http://prohibition.osu.edu/ [[/Endnote]].

There are more interesting documents on this site than the first one. They have documents related to Francis E. Willard, including Willard’s last interview and a eulogy to her given by Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana. [[Endnote]]Kerr, “Miss Willard in Marble”, http://prohibition.osu.edu/willard/eulogy [ They even have political cartoons from this era. Some of the documents like the eulogy or a report on the Women’s Crusade in Xenia, Ohio in the 1870s are given their own full, separate pages. [[Endnote]Kerr, “The Women’s Crusade in Xenia, Ohio”, http://prohibition.osu.edu/womans-crusade-1873-74/xenia-ohio [[/Endnote]]. The documents are vest but they fit with the themes of the site.

I have complete confidence that the images are real. For example, the political cartoons contain small descriptions telling the audience what the characters are saying; this and the cartoons themselves are in the style and format of old newspapers. [[Endnote]] Kerr, http://prohibition.osu.edu/prohibition-party-cartoons [[/Endnote]]. The images show fading and other qualities that tells the viewer they are old. The material around the images is presented better than the first site I have discussed. There is a professional feeling to the whole site. It is focused on the topic at hand giving facts, images and other material related to the topic to illustrate the points.

I feel this site is an improvement over the first one. It was made by a professor who understood how to use the website format. The links work as they should, and the writing is clear and simple to understand. This is not to say the Chicago site was completely bad, it’s just this site was made with more skill and at a college level.

Third Website:

This is the last website I will discuss. This website was made to promote Ken Burns and Lyan Novick’s Prohibition documentary film series and it is on a site made by the PBS. As such this site gives viewers a small sample of what the film is about, and offers additional information on the era and web-base activities related to the topic. Some of the things the site offers are film clips, pictures, a method to create personalized postcards base on the series to send to friends and family, a Prohibition-character avatar for Facebook, etc. [[Endnote]] Florentine Films and WETA, “Send Email Postcards”, Prohibition, http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/send-postcards/, (accessed on March 2, 1014). [[/Endnote]].

With the PBS being one of the organizations funding the film and the host of the site the audience would by those who are interested in the film. Not only history enthusiasts, but also people who are curious to learn more about this period of U.S. history or those who have seen other Burns’ films and liked them. Teachers would also be interested because not only for the history value to students but the site has a page that gives teachers instructions on how to use the film to teach students. [[Endnote]] Films and WETA, “Prohibition In The Classroom”, http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/educators/ [[/Endnote]]. So this site was made with a wide audience in mind.

The site allows the viewer great search tools to navigate it. At the top of all the pages there are links that allow people to find the information they want. Such as important people involved in Prohibition, or how the movement started. Even in specific pages like the Photo Gallery you can click on any of the 70 pictures for additional information. [[Endnote]] Films and WETA, “Photo Gallery”, http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/photos/ [ There is even one page that allows viewers to add stories about family members who lived in the Prohibition Era, though the function did not work for me when I tried it. [[Endnote] Films and WETA, “Share Your Story”, http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/share-your-story/ [[/Endnote]]. But given that the site was made in 2011 I can understand why it does not work. This site’s links and search tools are well put together and lead to interesting information about Prohibition.

This site is the most complex of all the sites I have covered because not only does it give photos, experts and quotes but also footage from the film itself. With all these multi-media formats beginning used on this site they are all very well presented. The quotes are in a different color than the main text and are put separately. The images are placed in a way that makes them not intrusive with the text, and the description of what they are and where they come from are told. There are two pages of special interest because they show a timeline and map. [[Endnote]] Films and WETA, “Prohibition Nationwide”, http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/prohibition-nationwide/ [[/Endnote]]. The timeline allows viewers to look at the events in order and to access additional information concerning a specific date, the same goes for the map where you can click on certain states for more information. There are great documents to look at here.

I have complete confidence the photos, clips, etc. are real, just as I have confidence the two another sites have really material. I know where the images come from and, it being a website with the backing of a major T.V. network, I feel I don’t have to worry about me personally trying to find the location of where these images came from. The film clips look professional. Concerning the writing around the images it is clear and precise. It coveys a lot of information in the small amount of space it has. The creators of the site obviously had a lot of time and energy in planning the site to make everything work.

The PBS Prohibition site is the best of all the three sites I have reviewed. It has no armature problems that I found in the Chicago site, and, while it is equal to the Temperance and Prohibition site with regard to the quality, the PBS site does it better with the additional of visual clips. This site shows what is capable when a professional uses Internet tools to his/her advantage.

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