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The Prohibition era in America, which lasted for well over a decade and—inconceivable as it might be today—effectively banned the sale and production of booze in the United States, ended with the ratification of the 21st Amendment on Dec. 5, 1933. The dozen or so years during which Prohibition imperfectly reigned, meanwhile, have endured in the national consciousness and the pop-culture pantheon as a period of unparalleled violence, gangsterism and corruption.
Here, LIFE.com offers up photos made in a number of New York speakeasies by Margaret Bourke-White. Most famous for her work as a LIFE photographer—along with Peter Stackpole, Thomas McAvoy and Alfred Eisenstaedt, she was one of the weekly’s original four staff photographers—Bourke-White was for years an editor and photographer at FORTUNE; the pictures in this gallery were shot for that storied Time Inc. monthly, three years before LIFE began publishing.
Bourke-White’s photos ran in the June 1933 issue of FORTUNE, under the simple and evocative title, “Speakeasies of New York.”
Duly acknowledging the prescience of that unknown writer’s words, we’ll just end here by noting that Bourke-White’s pictures do, in fact, provide a sense of how New Yorkers of the ’20s and ’30s lived. Judging by the photos, some of them lived pretty well, indeed.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.
Follow FORTUNE @FortuneMagazine.