Bootleg Whiskey During Prohibition
By James Donahue
Backers of the government’s failing “War On Drugs” should have learned that the
prohibition of intoxicating substances that a lot of people want only serves to stimulate an active black market controlled
by organized crime.
America is still feeling the effects of the prohibition
against alcohol which began January 1, 1920, and lasted until 1933. During those years the criminal gangs, mostly street gangs
that got involved in the business, began peddling bootleg liquor in secret places called speakeasies in every major city and
even many smaller towns from coast to coast. Alcoholism rates soared. Eventually organized crime syndicates began deadly wars
in battles for control of the liquor business.
These are the things everybody knows about the effects
of prohibition. What remains untold until recently was what federal authorities were doing in their efforts to stop people
from their access to their nightly fix of booze.
Illegal stills popped up in rural areas where people discovered
there was good money in brewing what they called “moonshine” whiskey. The name implied that the manufacturing
process was done secretly in the night. Also there was an active smuggling of alcohol from Canada and other countries. Ports
along the Great Lakes were busy receiving barrels of illegal liquor that also arrived under cover of darkness.
authorities and local police agencies could not keep up with the volume of bootleg alcohol that was getting smuggled into
the country and secretly manufactured in secret places. The crime syndicates responded to pressure from the police by stealing
industrial alcohol used in paints and solvents. and re-distilling it for people to drink.
The government responded to this by requiring manufacturing companies to “denature”
the industrial alcohol to make it unfit to drink. But the bad guys were always one step ahead of the government. They stole
millions of gallons of this alcohol and re-distilled it for people to drink.
was when the government, under President Calvin Coolidge, began adding poisonous methyl alcohol and other bitter tasting poisons
into the mix. The bootleggers paid their chemists to find ways to separate the liquor from the poisons. And at this point
the decision was made to make the manufactured alcohols deadly. They added kerosene and brucine, gasoline, benzene, cadmium,
iodine, zinc, mercury, salts, nicotine, ether, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine and acetone. And
the mixture was up to 10 percent methyl alcohol.
People were warned that the bootleg alcohol they were drinking was deadly. The advertising
campaign was designed to force people to stop drinking. But even this didn't work. Public health officials were shocked by the number of people dying from the poisoned alcohol. The Christmas
and New Year holidays of 1926 were extremely deadly. Hundreds of Americans died during those weeks alone. The following year
it was said about 700 died in New York City alone.
This final insanity forced an eventual end to prohibition.
By the time prohibition ended in 1933, one report said an estimated 10,000 Americans died from being poisoned by our own government.
Now the United States is involved in attempting to stop the manufacture, possession and sale of
all forms of narcotics, including marijuana, a natural plant classified as a controlled substance for no good reason.
Since that “war” was launched under President Richard Nixon in 1971, narcotics
use has increased, organized crime has been making big profits, and America’s prisons and jails are overcrowded with
a new class of felons and drug offenders.
like it was during the prohibition days, criminal gangs are killing each other in street warfare over distribution territorial
It is obvious that federal controls on the sale of these kinds of products
do not work. When you deny people from access to something, they go to great lengths to find out what they are missing.