Written By: Ben Cosgrove

The Prohibition era in America, which lasted nearly 14 years and 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 time when Prohibition imperfectly reigned, meanwhile, has endured in the national consciousness and the pop-culture pantheon as a period of unparalleled violence, gangsterism and corruption.

These photos were 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.” It also included some the below text in which the locations of these places were not, of course, specifically revealed.

The speakeasy [FORTUNE told its readers, betraying a bit of hauteur] has flowered successfully only in New York. In San Francisco it is dull and obscure; in Chicago, tough and noisy; in the South almost nonexistent. In most cities, drinking, like eating, is done at home or in the country club. In New York alone has the speakeasy become the instrument of a civilized social life, something between a pre-prohibition restaurant and a coeducational club. There are, therefore, in New York, speakeasies for every taste and purse. . . . The pictures on these pages present a fair cross-section of the reputable ones.

Liz Ronk, edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

Scene inside a New York City speakeasy during Prohibition, 1933.

At the Hunt Club in the theatre district, you could find perhaps the best whiskey in town

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Scene inside a New York City speakeasy during Prohibition, 1933.

At luncheon half a dozen dogs ate amicably at their mistresses’ sides. This bar is chromium, rose and black.

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Scene inside a New York City speakeasy during Prohibition, 1933.

No speakeasy was as popular with off-duty aviators as this quiet place. Its proprietor was himself an expert pilot.

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Scene inside a New York City speakeasy during Prohibition, 1933.

In the heart of a business section Thomas kept this speakeasy on the second floor. Drinking would start at 8:30 A.M. when contractors tended to drop in for a glass or two of rye.

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Scene inside a New York City speakeasy during Prohibition, 1933.

Champagne from right to left, on mantel: half nip, nip, pint, imperial pint, magnum, jeroboam, rehoboam, methuzelah, salmanazar, balthazar. This popular place had 29 waiters and eight chefs.

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Scene inside a New York City speakeasy during Prohibition, 1933.

The social atmosphere crested the popularity of this speakeasy, which is full of gay chintz, red and white awnings, indirect lights. The barroom is gold and Victorian-green.

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Scene inside a New York City speakeasy during Prohibition, 1933.

Inside a New York City speakeasy during Prohibition, 1933.

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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