By Jonathan Olly
Long Island changed an awful lot
When Prohibition came.
Some fine old standards went to pot
When Prohibition came.
Fishermen sailed away at night,
Knowing the weather wasn’t right
For any sort of fish to bite,
When Prohibition came….
Paul Bailey, Suffolk County historian, 1962
One minute after midnight on January 17, 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. Until its repeal with the Twenty-First Amendment on December 5, 1933, it was illegal to produce, transport, or sell alcoholic beverages in America. From New York City in the west to the coastal villages on the North and South Forks, Prohibition affected nearly everyone living on Long Island during this time. During these “dry” years, Long Island and its adjacent waters were integral to supplying New York City’s night clubs and speakeasies with alcohol – in addition to those in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Enterprising individuals learned to make their own beer, wine, and liquor, while smugglers brought in foreign alcohol through Long Island’s waterways and harbors.
Illegal alcohol’s high profits attracted criminals who became increasingly organized, violent, and powerful as Prohibition went on. In response, federal, state, and local governments expanded their law enforcement capabilities in Long Island’s communities and coastal waters. But to the dismay of Prohibition’s supporters, the scale with which Long Islanders flouted the law made it impossible to effectively enforce. The resulting chaos eventually inspired citizens to organize and successfully advocate for the Eighteenth Amendment’s repeal in 1933. From Gold Coast socialites to East End smugglers, Long Island during Prohibition has left an indelible impression on American culture.
Roots of Prohibition
The thirteen-year “noble experiment” was rooted in more than a century of anti-alcohol activism. Compared to today, inhabitants of what is now the United States drank excessive amounts of alcohol throughout the colonial period into the first decades of the new republic. Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia was America’s leading medical authority and the first to study the harmful effects of alcohol. He published An Inquiry into the Effects of Spirituous Liquors on the Human Body in 1784, and concluded that people should abstain from spirits such as whiskey and rum, with beer and wine as healthy alternatives. His pamphlet would become a founding text of the temperance movement in the coming decades.
In response to the alcohol-related social and economic problems in their communities, concerned citizens began forming associations and pledged to limit their alcohol intake, generally by avoiding distilled spirits in place of beer, cider, and wine. Five years after Rush’s publication, farmers in Litchfield County, Connecticut, formed the nation’s first temperance society in 1789, pledging to not use distilled spirits “as an article of refreshment” nor serve them to their workers. Subsequent local associations formed in Adams, Massachusetts, in 1792, in Nelson County, Virginia in 1800, and Moreau, New York – the first in the state – in 1808. The first statewide temperance association formed in Massachusetts five years later.
Meeting in Aquebogue on November 6, 1811, the Presbytery of Long Island (the leadership of the island’s Presbyterian churches) unanimously adopted a resolution “that hereafter ardent spirits and wine shall constitute no part of our entertainment at any of our public meetings; and that it be recommended to their churches, not to treat Christian brethren or others with ardent spirits as part of hospitality in friendly visits.” While the extent to which this resolution and its accompanying pastoral letter were followed in individual churches is unknown, historian Nathaniel Prime included the document in his The History of Long Island (1845) as evidence that the island’s ministers and churches “were among the earliest pioneers in this benevolent work.”
On August 18, 1829, fourteen men organized the Sag Harbor Temperance Society. It was one of the first temperance societies on Long Island, and formed the same years as statewide and New York City-based temperance societies. With a thriving whaling industry, Sag Harbor’s waterfront had numerous liquor dealers and other businesses peddling all manner of vices to the whalemen and workers in alongshore trades. As one of its goals, the society sought to halt the sale of what it called “ardent spirits.” At the end of 1834 it counted 504 members, divided almost evenly between men and women.
In the following decade the nationwide temperance movement shifted from encouraging moderate drinking and cleaner living to pushing for laws that restricted or banned alcohol. Reflecting this radicalization of the movement, the Total Abstinence Temperance Society organized in Sag Harbor in October of 1838 with 215 members. And a Young Men’s Total Abstinence Temperance Society followed in the summer of 1841. In a letter that December to the American Temperance Union, proud temperance advocate and Sag Harbor whaling merchant and ship owner Luther Dutton Cook reported that about 650 citizens had pledged total abstinence. Sag Harbor had a population of 3,000 people at the time.
Reflecting the popularity of the temperance movement, in 1847 artist William Sidney Mount painted Loss and Gain in his Stony Brook studio. As Mount recalled later in his career, Loss and Gain “depicts a jolly old toper, in a rather questionable state, vainly trying to climb a fence to regain a whiskey bottle which he has suffered to fall upon the other side. This is his ‘loss,’ and the gurgling out of the liquid is, morally and physically, his ‘gain.’”
Mount witnessed a similar scene in his boyhood, and as an adult he generally avoided alcohol. Back in 1832 a man hired Mount to paint a picture for a temperance society of a man drinking. But the commissioner soon rejected it for Mount having, as he recalled him saying, “represented the drunkard so happy that it will not answer for the cause.” But in Loss and Gain, Mount appears to have more clearly conveyed the damaging effects of chronic alcohol abuse, while also offering a possibility of redemption.
Sidelined during the Civil War, the temperance movement revived in the 1870s with the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union organizing in Ohio in 1874. An opportunity for women to enter the political sphere despite not having voting rights, the WCTU championed personal abstinence and relied on moral suasion to push lawmakers to ban alcoholic beverages. In less than two decades the WCTU formed chapters in every state and it became the largest women’s organization in the nation by 1891, claiming 150,000 dues-paying members.
As early as July 1875 WCTU chapters from New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania planned a large meeting with other temperance societies in Sea Cliff, Long Island. The Sag-Harbor Express predicted it would be “the largest gathering of the kind ever seen in the country.” The WCTU reached eastern Suffolk by 1878 when Riverhead formed a chapter, and a Suffolk County Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, comprised of representatives from chapters across the county, began holding annual conferences in 1889. It complemented the Suffolk County Temperance Society, founded in 1839 and headed by men.
By the late nineteenth century the WCTU was one of many national organizations, often faith-based, that were succeeding in getting communities, counties, and states to restrict and ban alcohol. They advanced their cause by publishing newspapers and newsletters, holding public demonstrations, conferences, and issuing a raft of literature touting the evils of alcohol and the need to ban it to safeguard the American family. Slowly, inevitably, the U.S. was going dry.
The First World War brought heavy regulation and restrictions in the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. The Selective Service Act, signed by President Woodrow Wilson on May 18, 1917, authorized conscription to create a large national army. It also prohibited alcohol in or near military camps and banned alcohol sales to officers and enlisted men while in uniform. Subsequent revisions and new regulations over the next year and a half extended the alcohol ban to U.S. Navy personnel, created dry (no alcohol) zones around naval installations for five miles, and then entirely forbid the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages to military personnel. The Lever Food and Fuel Control Act of August 10, 1917 banned the use of food and feed in producing distilled spirits for beverage purposes. And President Wilson issued a proclamation on December 11, 1917 that limited beer brewed after January 1, 1918 to 2.75 percent alcohol by weight and required malt liquor manufacturers to use thirty percent less of the “foods, fruits, food materials, and feeds” to make their product, which after January 1 would also require a license from the federal government.
These wartime restrictions on the consumption, sale, and manufacture of alcoholic beverages also fanned anti-immigrant sentiment toward German Americans and their breweries and drinking establishments. On Long Island, some citizens questioned the allegiance of their German and German-American neighbors, with the Babylon South Side Signal reporting that in East Hampton a vigilance committee was compiling a list of German and pro-German residents to keep under surveillance. Even German beer became suspect. The Suffolk County News reported on September 14, 1917 that “a soldier from Camp Upton [in Yaphank] drank too much German beer the other night and then began to talk pro-German. Two other men in khaki whipped him good and proper, explaining that when he was sober he was a good American.” The Port Jefferson Echo published a regular “Temperance Notes” column written by the WCTU, which on December 8, 1917 reported that Germany supposedly supplied each soldier at the front with a gallon of beer a day. This ration, the column alleged, accounted for the “unspeakable crimes” committed upon babies and women by the German troops. “If these horrors result from a beer diet,” the author concluded, “then in the name of America keep beer away from our soldiers!”
The portrayal of beer in the press as distinctly German and a detriment to the U.S. war effort gave new ammunition to temperance advocates. While resolutions for a Prohibition amendment failed in Congress in 1914, ’15, and ’16, the national debate over Prohibition was now tipping in favor of the “Drys” when Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas introduced a Prohibition amendment in the Senate in the spring of 1917. It passed the Senate on August 1, and the House passed a revised version on December 17. Mississippi became the first state to ratify the proposed Constitutional amendment on January 8, 1918. By 1918 twenty-three states had already passed statewide prohibitions against alcohol and were now dry. A year later on January 16, 1919, Nebraska became the thirty-sixth and final state needed to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment. The law banning the sale, production, and transportation of alcoholic beverages went into effect a year later, on January 17, 1920.
Living with Prohibition
Right after the Eighteenth Amendment’s ratification in 1919, Huntington’s main newspaper, The Long-Islander, devoted much of its January 17 front page to the achievement. Its editors boasted that “Every American should today be prouder of his country than ever before. Our nation is the beacon light of the world. It will be a glorious consummation and one which none will rejoice over more generally five years hence than the habitual users of intoxicating beverages themselves.” They were wrong. Long Islanders began stockpiling alcohol before the ban, and then quickly learned how to acquire more of it, legally and illegally.
When Congress passed the National Prohibition Act (popularly called the Volstead Act) in 1919, it defined what the Eighteenth Amendment called “intoxicating liquor,” and the laws under which Prohibition would be enforced. This included anything from beer to patent medicine, “containing one-half of one per centum or more of alcohol by volume which are fit for use for beverage purposes.” It did not prohibit drinking, stockpiles of pre-Prohibition alcohol were still legal to consume privately at home, and it allowed numerous exceptions for the use of alcohol, including medicinal, industrial, and religious purposes.
Commercial wineries were able to stay in business by producing sacramental and kosher wines for churches and synagogues. But even law-abiding religious citizens weren’t above suspicion. In June 1923 officers confiscated whiskey and ten gallons of wine from the Deer Park home of Hyman Adler, an Austrian immigrant and storekeeper. Charged with unlawfully possessing intoxicating liquors, Hyman went to court with a lawyer and a rabbi. As The County Review recounted, “Adler convinced the jury that the wine he had in his possession was to be used for sacramental purposes, he being of the Jewish faith, and that he had purchased the whiskey before the Volstead Act went into effect.” The jury acquitted Adler, and the judge ordered his wine returned.
Another more common avenue was to get a prescription. Liquor production and sales continued under the guise of “medicinal alcohol.” Some distilleries such as A. Overholt & Co. of Broad Ford, Pennsylvania, were able to secure a permit to bottle their existing stocks of rye whiskey for sale to licensed pharmacies. Sympathetic doctors could write a prescription for spiritus frumenti for any number of ailments, and a licensed pharmacist such as Walter Pierz in Brooklyn would issue the patient a bottle of whiskey. Pierz opened his pharmacy at 7623 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn around 1927, and appears to have regularly filled whiskey prescriptions. So, too, did pharmacist Joseph Kaye at 319 Ralph Avenue in Bedford, Brooklyn. Decades later Kaye’s daughter, Renee, donated to the Long Island Museum three sealed bottles of Old Overholt rye whiskey from her father’s store that were made in the spring of 1912 and finally bottled in the spring of 1926.
Before modern innovations in pain medicine, it was still accepted practice among doctors to prescribe liquor as a pain killer. And similar to the status of medical marijuana today, the practice was significantly abused during Prohibition. The ease with which some doctors would write a prescription for even the vaguest of ailments inspired a popular song in 1920 called “Oh! Doctor.” The cover illustration for the sheet music shows a crowd of men outside a doctor’s office, each ready to whisper in his ear while the smirking doctor writes out prescriptions.
In the second half of the nineteenth century German immigration had exceeded that of any other country, and they permanently reshaped America’s drinking culture. The Germans brought with them a tradition of beer making and public consumption in beer halls and beer gardens. Brooklyn grew into a major center of beer brewing, with nearly fifty breweries operating at the turn of the century. Competition and consolidation, however, reduced this number to thirty-one by 1910, and then twenty-three by the start of Prohibition.
Breweries that wanted to stay open had to produce a beverage containing no more than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. While it couldn’t legally be sold as beer, companies instead marketed it as a “cereal beverage” or “near beer.” The John F. Trommer brewery in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn started in 1897, and operated a restaurant and beer garden adjacent to the brewery. In addition to keeping these side businesses after 1920, Trommer’s sold the popular White Label malt brew and invested in restaurants that agreed to exclusively carry their near beer. Saloons that wished to stay in business, like many restaurants and hotels with bars, switched to serving ostensibly non-alcoholic “temperance drinks” and near beer.
Section 29 of the Volstead Act authorized the making at home of what it called “nonintoxicating cider and fruit juices.” Six months into Prohibition the Internal Revenue Service clarified this law in allowing the at-home making and consumption of these beverages with an alcohol content greater than a half percent as long as they were still non-intoxicating. Later that year revenue officials allowed the heads of families (single men living separately were prohibited) to make up to 200 gallons per year of tax-free non-intoxicating fruit juices, but stressed that home vintners first needed a federal permit before doing so. The exception was a boon for grape growers.
One of these home vitners was Dominick Visconti of Brooklyn. Dominick moved with his wife and son from Connecticut to Brooklyn around 1919, where he soon started an ice and coal delivery business. Like a lot of Italian immigrants, Visconti also made his own red wine, and continued to do so throughout Prohibition. His youngest child, Mary, saved a single bottle of this wine, which shows that Dominick apparently got his bottles from the Elk Bottling Works on West 9th Street, a short walk from the Visconti home on Luquer Street.
Homemade wine was good news for grape growers and retailers of wine making supplies. But retailers stocked their shelves with not only the materials necessary for wine making, but for home brewing as well. These so-called “malt shops” sold blocks of grape concentrate, hops, and malt extract that came with easy-to-follow instructions. But while it was legal to buy the ingredients to brew beer and distill liquor, to make them would break the law.
The Schackman family entered the malt shop business in the 1920s, moving from Brooklyn to Suffolk County. Harold Schackman settled in Patchogue where he opened a malt shop on West Main Street in 1927 advertising “a complete line of Grains, Cordials, Fruits, Syrups, Barrels, Crocks, Copperware, Syphons, Tubing, Glassware, Capping Machines, Etc.” The success of the business led him to open a second location in Riverhead on Peconic Avenue the following year, which his father Samuel and younger brothers Bernhard and Barney operated.
Browsing the ads of both businesses, it’s clear that customers could purchase all the supplies and ingredients to make beer, wine, and liquor – and even some extracts and bitters already high in alcohol. Harold’s advertising by 1930 also targeted party hosts in addition to home brewers, asking “Do you realize how convenient it is for a hostess in entertaining her guests to serve some famous ‘old-time’ drink, in an inexpensive way?” Perhaps in response to Harold’s skirting of the law, Federal Prohibition agents raided his shop on January 9, 1933, arresting him after finding two bottles of what they thought were liquor.
Illegal Alcohol during Prohibiton
When the federal government made alcohol illegal it had the unintended effect of turning many law-abiding citizens into criminals. Alcohol’s central place in public socializing and private entertaining didn’t change. And making it illegal made it more fashionable and desirable to some. Bootleggers brewed beer and distilled liquor in basements, apartments, factories, farm buildings – anywhere with the space and privacy to bring in supplies and send out the finished product in jars, bottles, and barrels.
Most of the illegal beer, wine, and liquor went to speakeasies operating in well-known inns, hotels, saloons, clubs, or cafes that now ostensibly served only non-alcoholic drinks. Port Washington’s Cove Inn, a popular hotel dating back to 1872, was raided by police on December 23, 1923. Authorities arrested the owner and bartender and seized thirty-eight barrels of ale, 142 cartons of beer, and some liquor. Additional speakeasies opened in private homes, in the backrooms of legitimate businesses, or anywhere accessible to a thirsty crowd and offering privacy from law enforcement. Frederick Ziemer of Freeport was a metal worker who built a speakeasy in the basement of his house on Claurome Place. He also distilled his own liquor using a gas stove and copper boiler. After Prohibition Ziemer kept the speakeasy intact until his death in 1938. And it stayed largely untouched until the house was sold in 2011, when the Freeport Historical Society photographed the speakeasy and acquired the still for its collection.
Unlike Ziemer who appears to have mostly made his own alcohol, large private estates stockpiled alcohol before Prohibition, and replenished these with illegal booze as they hosted lavish parties. F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his classic novel The Great Gatsby (1925), captured the spirit of the Gold Coast’s decadent gatherings in describing a party at Jay Gatsby’s mansion: “In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from the other.” Across Long Island, staff at speakeasies and private parties provided trusted customers with drinks made from either smuggled or locally made alcohol of varying quality. Seeking to mask the often poor-tasting liquor, bartenders added sweet fruit juices to drinks, creating a cocktail culture that endures today.
The Ku Klux Klan became a part of Long Island history during Prohibition. The original Klan formed after the Civil War and lasted into the 1870s, targeting African Americans in an attempt to maintain the South’s racial hierarchy. But the organization reformed in 1915 in Georgia, and spread nationwide in the 1920s, as the group targeted people of color, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants, especially those from southern and eastern Europe. Klansmen were strong supporters of Prohibition, partially in an attempt to appear patriotic, and partially because the Klan’s hatred for non-white and non-Protestant groups dovetailed with the laws of Prohibition disproportionately affecting these often working class citizens who could not stockpile alcohol to drink at home or who placed great cultural value in communal public drinking.
The Klan found support nationwide, where they established local chapters and marched in parades, held outdoor rallies, gave public lectures, received support from church pulpits, and attended funerals. Klan gatherings could number more than 20,000 people, such as a meeting in Willis Field in Hauppauge in 1923. As activists, Klansmen did more than speak and make public shows of force. Members participated in raids, burned crosses to threaten enemies, tipped off authorities about speakeasies and liquor stashes, and even manned checkpoints, such as helping Federal Prohibition agents search motorists’ cars for liquor in Hampton Bays in 1924.
But the real job of enforcing Prohibition fell to local, state, and federal law enforcement officials, who in each case had more territory than they could adequately cover. In Nassau County in 1925 the County Board of Supervisors voted to create a police department to address rising crime, much of it related to Prohibition. Beginning with Police Chief Abram Skidmore, fifty-five officers, and a fingerprint expert, the force expanded to 450 officers by 1932. Their Prohibition-related actions included arresting drunk drivers, and raiding speakeasies and stills.
But police weren’t just after individual basement beer brewers and drinkers. The huge profits in illegal liquor attracted criminals who eventually came to dominate every part of the business, from production to transportation to sale. Criminal gangs battled each other for control of markets and law enforcement officials found themselves outnumbered and with fewer resources as they hunted for stills, raided speakeasies, and chased liquor trucks and armed gangs on Long Island’s waterfront and highways. After one infamous gun battle between gangsters and Suffolk District Attorney Alexander Blue and his men from Great River to Bay Shore on November 24, 1930, an editorial ran in The County Review the following week. Titled “The Underworld Menaces Suffolk,” the writer concluded that for the type of criminals which law enforcement now confronted, “They do understand bullets and death, and these are the arguments that must be given them.”
Long Islanders on occasion encountered members of Irish, Italian, and Jewish gangs active in New York City, and whose business interests extended into Nassau and Suffolk counties. The Pembroke estate in Glen Cove was built in 1916 for mine owner Joseph R. De Lamar. Upon his death in 1918, the estate passed to his daughter, Alice. At the start of Prohibition the disused grounds caught the attention of smugglers as an excellent place to land liquor. As the daughter of Pembroke’s former estate manager, J. Edward Breuer, recalled in 2001, her father went to investigate some nocturnal activity on the grounds. “The first thing my father saw were two large grocery trucks and a bunch of men standing around with guns. Gordon was there. My father told them he represented the De Lamar estate and they couldn’t continue to bring in liquor. As far as he knows, they moved their operation elsewhere after that.” Waxey Gordon was a gangster associated with Jewish mob boss Arnold Rothstein – whom F. Scott Fitzgerald used as a model for Jay Gatsby’s mentor, Meyer Wolfsheim.
Criminals weren’t always so accommodating. John Crampton lived on River Avenue in Patchogue, where smugglers began using his waterfront property and an adjacent lot for landing liquor on New Year’s Eve in 1930. Over the following week, he was ordered at gunpoint to stay away, had his telephone wires cut, and was given a note, partially written in what appeared to be blood, that his house would be bombed if he said anything. Crampton went to the police pleading for protection, with his story making the front page of the Patchogue Advance.
Perhaps the most infamous event to take place on Long Island during Prohibition occurred in the early morning of June 26, 1931. Shortly after midnight Alfred Ford, Philip Knight, and Charles Walker forced five young men into a car at gunpoint in downtown Southampton. As the car drove to an isolated cottage in North Sea, three of the kidnapped men escaped, leaving behind Thomas Farrell Jr. and Jacob Antilety. At the cottage was Henry Thiele and several other men. Farrell and Antilety were accused of knowing about a hijacked liquor shipment belonging to the men. Upon denying the accusation, Farrell and Antilety were burned with a red-hot potato masher and badly beaten. Eventually the gang released the young men, who went to the police. Thiele, Walker, Ford, and Knight were all arrested and charged with kidnapping and assault, in cases that would take two years to conclude.
Eventually, with greater federal and state funding to hire more police officers, and increased legal penalties to discourage lawbreakers, officials made some progress in fighting Prohibition-related crime. In charge of the Long Island headquarters of federal Prohibition agents in Bay Shore, Thomas Maher claimed, perhaps exaggeratingly, that in 1932 his men in the past year had reduced liquor manufacturing and rum running on Long Island by eighty percent. This came as a result of making 200 arrests, raiding sixty distilling plants, and confiscating more than 200,000 gallons of mash and several thousand gallons of distilled alcohol. But a lot of alcohol, imported and home-made, still made its way to thirsty New Yorkers. As Suffolk County District Attorney Alexander Blue had observed two years prior, “It is a recognized fact that the landing of liquor on the shore of Suffolk County has added materially in keeping New York City wet.”
Rum Running and Enforcement
Long Island at the start of Prohibition was a smuggler’s dream. Extending 118 miles from New York Harbor to Montauk, Long Island contained more than 1,600 miles of shoreline that its baymen and other locals knew better than anyone. And just three miles off the South Shore lay a fleet of foreign liquor ships eager to supply the nation’s largest liquor market.
Captain Bill McCoy pioneered rum running in the first years of Prohibition when he loaded a former fishing schooner with foreign liquor and anchored three miles off Long Island in May 1921. Small boats running from the South Shore quickly purchased his cargo. McCoy was soon joined by a motley assortment of converted yachts, old sailing vessels, trawlers, tramp steamers, and fishing schooners loaded with every type of alcohol. Most, including McCoy’s Tomoka, were registered in foreign countries to avoid seizure by the Coast Guard. This floating liquor market became known as Rum Row.
In charge of enforcing the liquor laws at sea, the Coast Guard was initially overwhelmed by the number of rum runners and its inability to seize the foreign vessels on Rum Row. But beginning in 1924 Congress signed treaties with European nations that allowed searches of their vessels suspected of smuggling liquor if they were within one hour’s sailing distance of the coast – about twelve miles offshore. And that year Congress finally appropriated money for the Coast Guard to massively expand its personnel and the number of inshore and offshore patrol vessels.
Some of the rum runners and Coast Guard boats were built side by side in local shipyards. In 1922 Fred Scopinich and his brother Mike established the Freeport Point Shipyard in Freeport. The brothers built not only commercial vessels and recreational boats, but also fifteen patrol boats for the Coast Guard and thirty purpose-built rum runners during Prohibition. At first they built forty-foot skiffs such as the Wanda in 1926. But when the three-mile limit was pushed to twelve, smugglers wanted larger boats with multiple engines to carry more liquor for each risky trip. While boats like the Wanda had one 500-horsepower Liberty engine, larger rum runners like the Maureen, built in 1929 and measuring fifty-two feet long, had three. The Maureen’s owner, Bill Kleb, lived in Baldwin and gave his occupation as “plumber” when a federal census taker interviewed him in 1930.
Boat owners usually were not the ones risking their lives on the water. Fred Pitts of Montauk was fourteen when a “benefactor” put him in charge of an eighty-five foot contact boat with three 500-horsepower Liberty engines. His crewman was twelve years old. For three years Pitts made a forty-five mile run between shore and Rum Row. The purchase price and amount had already been decided ashore, a tactic used by crime syndicates to reduce the risk of hijacking and robbery at sea. Pitts was given half of a two-dollar bill to match with the half aboard the supply ship to prove that the liquor was going to the right boat. Pitts landed the cases on the beach, which were often trucked to what is now Deep Hollow Ranch. For his efforts Pitts was paid $400 a trip – nearly $6,000 when adjusted for inflation.
Rum running wasn’t just a South Shore story, however. The lumber schooner W. T. Bell was sailing down Long Island Sound headed to New York City, when a winter gale drove it ashore at Bayville on February 20, 1927. The village fire department rescued the crew, but the men fled soon after. Curious residents boarded the schooner and discovered it was carrying more than 200 kegs of whisky. Locals frantically unloaded most of the liquor before authorities arrived and secured the scene. The Coast Guard eventually dynamited the wreck on the beach so a subsequent high tide wouldn’t carry it back into Long Island Sound.
Also operating in this area at the time was one of Long Island’s most notorious rum runners, the Artemis. Built in 1929 in Morris Heights, New York, it had three twelve-cylinder Liberty engines that allowed the boat to go more than forty-five miles per hour. In August of 1931 the Artemis rammed a Coast Guard patrol boat (a former rum runner named the Black Duck) off Orient Point and then fled while being shot at. Authorities eventually found the boat with its bullet-riddled cockpit in Port Jefferson undergoing repairs. After Repeal the Artemis was rebuilt with an enclosed deck and became a ferry serving Fire Island. Eventually it was renamed the South Bay Courier.
And not all rum runners were lucky to make it to shore. The tug Lizzie D sank off Long Beach on October 19, 1922 with the loss of all eight crewmen. With no witnesses to the accident, the reason for the tug’s sinking and its exact location were unknown. Then, in 1977, scuba divers located the wreck and discovered that the tug was a rum runner. Within the rusted hull were the remains of crates of Canadian rye whiskey and Kentucky bourbon – presumably purchased on Rum Row. Subsequent scuba divers have explored the Lizzie and reclaimed part of this lost cargo. The vessel is a reminder that many people died during Prohibition in pursuit of the simple sounding goal of suppling drinkers with alcohol.
For many New Yorkers, by the end of the 1920s it was apparent that Prohibition was a failure. Pauline Morton Sabin came to this realization in 1928. Initially a supporter of Prohibition, Sabin was a resident of New York City and Southampton with her husband Charles, an insurance executive. Though her spouse was a Democrat, Sabin had joined the Suffolk County Republican Committee in 1919, founded the Women’s National Republican Club in 1921 and was the first women to become a member of the Republican National Committee in 1923.
While an important fundraiser for the presidential campaigns of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover, her article “I Changed My Mind on Prohibition” in the June 1928 issue of Outlook signaled a break with her party. Sabin believed that Prohibition encouraged furtive drinking and a disregard for the rule of law that passed from parent to child. She concluded that “as soon as the women who are opposed to Prohibition organize and become articulate they will be able to do more towards bringing about a change in the conditions which exist today than any organization composed solely of men.”
The following April when President Herbert Hoover in his inaugural address pledged to strengthen enforcement of Prohibition instead of reforming it, Sabin resigned from the RNC and vowed to change the law. In May she and twenty-three other socially prominent (and wealthy) women met in Chicago to launch the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. Its only goal was to repeal Prohibition.
While women had for decades been prominent temperance activists, Sabin’s organization offered an informed and socially acceptable alternative. Sabin’s political experience taught her that the WONPR needed a nationwide group of women from all classes and backgrounds. So the WONPR gradually established state branches, which then held rallies, produced radio spots, organized automobile caravans, solicited new members and financial donations, distributed literature, staffed booths at state and county fairs, and sold fashionable consumer goods marked with anti-Prohibition slogans to advance their cause.
Membership in the WONPR reached 100,000 by the time of their first national meeting in Cleveland in April 1930, and 300,000 by next year’s conference in Washington, D.C. Five hundred delegates were expected; eight hundred arrived. The WONPR urged its members to only support candidates for public office who favored Repeal. In April 1932 for its third annual conference the organization again choose Washington, D.C., where the 1,300 delegates from forty-one states could petition their Congressional representatives in person ahead of the critical presidential and congressional elections in November. Press photographers documented over two hundred WONPR members surrounding Pauline Sabin on the steps of the Capitol as she delivered a speech on the second day of the conference.
With pressure from the WONPR, the Democratic Party pledged in June of 1932 to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment, and earned Sabin’s endorsement of Franklin Roosevelt for president. The WONPR’s executive committee announced their support for Roosevelt from the porch of Jean and Edward Small Moore’s mansion in Roslyn Heights, New York, on July 7. Eleven days later Sabin made the cover of Time magazine as the leader of a rapidly growing organization. By the end of 1932 it counted more than a million members and would reach 1.3 million the following April. The November 1932 election was a landslide for Roosevelt and Democrats in Congress, and the WONPR had demonstrated the political power of American women.
End of the Noble Experiment
With Franklin Roosevelt’s landslide election victory on November 8, 1932, Prohibition was doomed. Roosevelt’s Democratic Party favored ending Prohibition, and the election gave them control of both houses for the first time since 1914. In that time America had become a majority urban nation. And with that louder political voice urban Americans predominantly called for Prohibition’s end. In response, Congress approved a resolution in February of 1933 to overturn the Eighteenth Amendment. While waiting for individual state conventions to approve the amendment over the coming weeks and months, Congress and Roosevelt sought to provide some immediate relief. To appease thirsty constituents and begin rebuilding a once-mighty industry, Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act on March 22. Co-sponsored by Representative Thomas Cullen of Brooklyn, the law modified the Volstead Act by legalizing the manufacture and sale of beer and wine of 3.2 percent alcohol on April 7, 1933.
Most of Brooklyn’s famous breweries hadn’t survived the drought. Among the handful that did included Schaefer, Liebmann, Piel, and Trommer. George F. Trommer kept his brewery alive by financing restaurants that would serve his White Label near beer. For the lack of the real thing it became popular, and Trommer also kept open the Trommer-owned beer garden and restaurant next to the Bushwick brewery. For a publicity photograph taken the day before legal beer sales resumed, Trommer posed with brewery employees as he used a bottle of beer to christen the first delivery truck ready to leave the brewery yard. While Trommer’s would enjoy its greatest period of prosperity in the 1930s and ‘40s, Brooklyn’s days as a major brewing center were over.
At the other end of Long Island, in Greenport, there was a decidedly muted reaction to what is now popularly called Beer Day. Photos taken at Claudio’s restaurant on April 7, 1933 show only a small gathering of men – because it’s largely business as usual for Greenport’s most famous speakeasy. Manuel Claudio first opened a saloon and billiard hall in the village in 1870. At the start of Prohibition the family opened a French restaurant in the building but kept the bar secretly stocked with smuggled liquor. Within a week of beer’s legalization in 1933, Claudio’s advertised in The County Review that they were now serving Old Heidelberg beer alongside their seafood and sandwiches. Within a year they also opened a liquor store on the premises, perhaps taking advantage of their in-depth knowledge of the liquor industry.
The actual end to Prohibition on Long Island was also anticlimactic. New York became the ninth state to ratify the twenty-first amendment on June 27, 1933. And Utah became the thirty-sixth and final state needed to ratify the amendment on December 5. While Congress had allowed for up to seven years for the required three-quarters of the states to ratify the amendment, it only took 288 days.
The Suffolk County News devoted just three paragraphs on its front page to the end of Prohibition – three days after it ended. A reporter wandering downtown Sayville wasn’t able to observe any celebrations or public drunkenness, nor could he find anyone who had seen such behavior. The muted public response perhaps had a lot to do with the already widespread disapproval and violation of the law.
The day after Prohibition’s demise, the WONPR held a victory dinner in Washington, DC, before quietly dissolving. But the WCTU endures to this day. Members in chapters in every U.S. state still pledge to abstain from alcohol, while the group addresses a broad range of issues it considers harmful to society.
As perhaps the most damaging legacy of Prohibition, organized crime after 1933 continued to expand its influence in various industries and locations. But turf wars, personal rivalries, and governmental prosecution ended criminals’ careers, lives, or both. Among the famous gangsters who got their start in New York City, Al Capone, originally from Brooklyn, went to prison in 1931, Dutch Schultz was shot to death in 1935, and Bugsy Siegel shared the same fate in 1947.
Alcohol smuggling into New York City and the shores of Long Island continued in limited form as a way to avoid taxes – such as the rum runner Monalola that wrecked on Jones Beach in February 1935 while trying to evade the Coast Guard. But the smugglers faced a modernized and greatly expanded Coast Guard compared to a decade prior. And the Guard’s training and new vessels were critical in protecting the nation’s coasts when the Second World War began only four years later.
The Twenty-First Amendment put the regulation of local liquor sales in the hands of the states. Some communities and counties chose not to legalize alcohol, which today results in a patchwork quilt of dry, semi-dry, and wet counties across America. While no town is still dry on Long Island, the history, pop culture, and folklore of Prohibition endure in places like Gin Beach in Montauk and Claudio’s in Greenport; in our fascination with the glamour and decadence of the Jazz Age; and in the stories that every community has about rum runners, bootleggers, and scofflaws.
Paul Bailey, Early Long Island: Its Indians, Whalers, and Folklore Rhymes (Westhampton Beach, NY: Long Island Forum, 1962), 113.
While the phrase “noble experiment” is synonymous with Prohibition and attributed to Herbert Hoover, the words are paraphrased from a February 23, 1928 letter from Commerce Secretary Hoover to Senator William Borah: “Our country has deliberately undertaken a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose.” Elizabeth Knowles, ed., Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations, 3rd ed. (1991; New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007), 157.
In 1830 Americans drank 7.1 gallons of pure alcohol per person per year in 1830, compared to 2.34 gallons of pure alcohol per person in 2013 according to Emma Green, “Colonial Americans Drank Roughly Three Times as Much as Americans Do Now,” The Atlantic, June 29, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/06/benjamin-rush-booze-morality-democracy/396818/ . Rush’s famous publication would in subsequent editions be re-titled An Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon the Human Body and Mind.
History of Litchfield County, Connecticut (Philadelphia, PA: J. W. Lewis & Co., 1881), 142. George Faber Clark, History of the Temperance Reform in Massachusetts, 1813-1883 (Boston, MA: Clarke & Carruth, 1888), 5-8. In 1813 the Massachusetts Society for the Suppression of Intemperance formed in Boston.
Nathaniel S. Prime, A History of Long Island, from Its First Settlement by Europeans, to the Year 1845 (New York, NY: Robert Carter, 1845), 418-419.
Records of the First Temperance Society organized in the Village of Sag Harbor, Long Island (N.Y.) on the evening of the 18th August, A.D. 1829 [unnumbered], collection of the First Presbyterian Church and Congregation (The Old Whalers’ Church) of Sag Harbor, New York.
History of the temperance movement in Sag Harbor from a Luther Dutton Cook letter to the Corresponding Secretary, American Temperance Union, dated December 1, 1841. Printed in Journal of the American Temperance Union 6, no. 2 (February, 1842): 21. Population of Sag Harbor from John W. Barber and Henry Howe, Historical Collections of the State of New York (New York, NY: S. Tuttle, 1842), 543.
Alfred Frankenstein, William Sidney Mount (New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, 1975), 25 (“represented the drunkard..”), 30 (Loss and Gain description and boyhood recollection).
Minutes of the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union at the Eighteenth Annual Meeting Boston, Mass., November 13th to 18th, 1891 (Chicago, IL: Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, 1891), 4 (list of states and territories with WCTU vice presidents), 64 (150,000 members). As largest women’s voluntary organization in the country, see Kathleen Waters Sander, The Business of Charity: The Woman’s Exchange Movement, 1832-1900 (Chicago and Urbana, IL: Illinois University Press, 1998), 65.
Sag-Harbor Express, June 17, 1875, 2. Formation of a WCTU branch in Riverhead from The Long Island Traveler [Cutchogue, NY], February 21, 1878, 2. The Suffolk County WCTU formed in June 1888 at the Congregational Church in Sayville, but held its first annual convention in 1889. “Miss Goodale, state organizer, for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Unions, will organize a County Union next Wednesday, June 20.” The Suffolk County News [Sayville, NY], June 16, 1888, 3. The ninth annual convention advertised in “County Convention, W.C.T.U.,” South Side Signal [Babylon, NY], November 13, 1897, 2. Formation of the Suffolk County Temperance Society in November 1839 mentioned in “Quarterly Temperance Meeting,” The Corrector [Sag Harbor, NY], March 18, 1840, 3.
For liquor prohibitions in the Selective Service Act of 1917, see Section 12: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/65th-congress; For an overview of the anti-alcohol legislation passed in 1917 and 1918 see Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010), 99; John G. Buchanan, “War Legislation Against Alcoholic Liquor and Prostitution,” Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology 9, no. 4 (February 1919): 520-529; for the de-facto ban on distilled spirits in the Lever Control Act, see Section 15: http://www.legisworks.org/congress/65/publaw-41.pdf for Wilson’s proclamation, see “Alcoholic Contents of Beer Reduced,” The Evening Gazette [Port Jervis, NY], December 13, 1917, 6.
“Watching the Germans,” The South Side Signal [Babylon, NY], December 21, 1917, 4; “A soldier from Camp Upton drank too much…,” The Suffolk County News, September 14, 1917, 2; “German Soldiers and Beer,” The Port Jefferson Echo, December 8, 1917, 6.
For coverage of 1914-1917 efforts to pass a Prohibiton amendment, see Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010), 70-74, 91-94; “Senate Passes ‘Dry Nation’ Bill,” Plattsburgh Daily Republican, August 2, 1917, 1; “House Passes ‘Dry’ Amendment,” Plattsburgh Daily Republican, December 18, 1917, 1; for Mississippi and Nebraska ratifying amendment see Okrent, 104 (Mississippi), 106 (Nebraska). For a list of the 23 states banning alcohol by 1918, see “The Prohibition Record in 1916,” The Hotel World: The Hotel and Travelers Journal 84, no. 3 (January 20, 1917), 14.
The Long-Islander [Huntington, NY], January 17, 1919, 1.
Full text of the National Prohibition Act available online at https://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/66th-congress.
For the business of sacramental wines, see Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010), 182-185. For Hyman Adler’s story, see The County Review [Riverhead, NY], June 29, 1923, 3. And according to The Suffolk County News, June 29, 1923, 2, a rabbi also testified that “the wine and whiskey was to be used for sacramental purposes.” Hyman Adler biographical details from “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MVSK-6R7: accessed 17 July 2017), Hyman Artler [sic], Deer Park, Suffolk, New York, United States; citing ED 79, sheet A, line 1, family 1, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1268; FHL microfilm 1,821,268.
History of the A. Overholt & Co. from David Wondrich, “How Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey Lost Its Way,” The Daily Beast, September 12, 2016, http://www.thedailybeast.com/how-pennsylvania-rye-whiskey-lost-its-way; For Walter Pierz filling many medicinal liquor prescriptions, more than thirty appeared on eBay in the spring of 2017, and all dating from 1930, suggesting it was a regular part of his business; opening of Pierz’s Pharmacy around 1927 from his obituary, “Walter R. Pierz,” The Suffolk County News, July 30, 1964, 6. The address of Joseph Kaye’s pharmacy was supplied by his daughter, Renee Kaye Sklar, when she donated the Old Overholt bottles to the Long Island Museum in 2008 (Acc. # 2008.004.001-3).
Rubey Cowan and Billy Joyce, Oh! Doctor (New York, NY: Stark & Cowan, Inc.: 1920).
Number of Brooklyn breweries from A.G. Sulzberger, “When Brooklyn Brewed the World,” City Room (blog), New York Times, July 10, 2009, https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/10/when-brooklyn-brewed-the-world/ .
History of John F. Trommer, Inc. from Suzanne Spellen, “Past and Present: Trommer’s Evergreen Brewery and Restaurant,” Brownstoner, January 10, 2014,http://www.brownstoner.com/history/past-and-present-trommers-evergreen-brewery-and-restaurant/.
“Allows Home Brew Over Half Percent,” New York Times, July 25, 1920. “Makers of Wine Must Register,” The Journal and Republican [Lowville, NY], November 4, 1920, 4. The U.S. grape industry was centered in California, with significant grape production also in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. In 1919 9,300 boxcars of grapes were shipped from California to New York. By 1928 the number of boxcars increased to more than 27,000 according to Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010, 179.
Mary R. Nizza interviewed by Jonathan Olly, Kings Park, NY, August 30, 2016. Dominick Visconti registered for the draft (signing his name as “Domenico Viscanti”) on September 12, 1918 while living in Hamden, Connecticut, and his first child with wife Maria was born in New York on April 25, 1919, putting their move to New York between these two events. “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZFX-VBG : 12 December 2014), Dominick Visconti, 1917-1918; citing New Haven County no 4, Connecticut, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,561,985. The 1930 and 1940 census records list the Visconti family living at 86 Luquer Street, while the address on the Elk Bottling Works bottle is 113 West 9th Street. Mary Nizza donated the bottle to the Long Island Museum in 2016 (Acc. # 2016.007.0016).
Advertisement for the opening of Harold Schackman’s malt shop in The Patchogue Advance, September 23, 1927, 8. Harold ran an ad announcing the opening of the Riverhead Malt Supply Company in The Patchogue Advance, June 15, 1928, 5. Raid of Harold’s shop in “Federal Men Raid Malt Shop Here and Bellport Drug Store,” The Patchogue Advance, January 20, 1933, 1.
For a still in a West Patchogue chicken coop, see “Raid Uncovers Still,” The Suffolk County News, March 28, 1930, 1. For a still found in a Farmingdale factory building see “Raid Yields Half Million Raw Alcohol,” The County Review, February 21, 1929, 1. For a basement brewery in an Islip house, see “Blue’s Men Seize Huge Rum Cache,” The County Review, January 28, 1932, 13. For a still operated on the grounds of the Mastic Beach Hotel, see “Raid Discloses Two Big Stills at Mastic and Much Liquor,” The Patchogue Advance, September 14, 1929, 1.
For Cove Inn raid see “A Booze Round Up,” The Long-Islander, December 28, 1923, 11. Frederick Ziemer’s obituary is “Frederick Zimmer,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 17, 1938, 2A. Ziemer’s occupation from “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MJGJ-MW6 Accessed 30 July 2017); and “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X78L-Z5F : accessed 30 July 2017).
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925; New York, NY: Scribner, 2004), 40. Roger Wunderlich, “The Great Gatsby as Long Island History,” Long Island Historical Journal 7, No. 1 (Fall 1994): 119-124. Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010), 215. For examples of Prohibition-era cocktail recipes, see Charles S. Warnock, Giggle Water: How to Make Home-Made Mixed Drinks, Cordials, Wines, Etc. (New York, NY: Charles S. Warnock, 1928. Digital copy available online at https://cld.bz/4FVfSP/4.
For a history of the rise of the KKK in Syosset-Woodbury, see Tom Montalbano, “Temperance, Traditionalism, and the Ku Klux Klan in Syosset-Woodbury,” Oyster Bay Historical Society, http://www.oysterbayhistorical.org/uploads/4/9/5/1/4951065/kkk_in_syosset.pdf; See also Jane S. Gombieski, “Kleagles, Klokards, Kludds, and Kluxers: The Klan in Suffolk County, 1915-1928, Part One,” Long Island Historical Journal 6, No. 1 (Fall 1993): 41-62. Frank Cavioli, “People, Places, and the KKK on Long Island,” Long Island Forum XLIX (August 1986): 159-167. Nancy Robin Jaicks, “Race, Ethnicity and Class on Shelter Island, 1652 to 2013,” Long Island History Journal 25, No. 2 (2016): http://lihj.cc.stonybrook.edu/2016/articles/race-ethnicity-and-class-on-shelter-island-1652-2013/.
For Klansmen providing tip and participating in raid, see “Officer Downs Shot, Killed by Rum Runner,” The Suffolk County News, May 23, 1924, 1. For burning of a cross in front of a Freeport restaurant that sold liquor, see “Beware of the Klan,” The Long-Islander, March 21, 1924, 12. “Klansmen Parade and Hold Rally in Patchogue,” The Patchogue Advance, June 17, 1927, 1. For Klansmen conducting funeral service for Constable Ferdinand J. Downs, see “5,000 Attend Downs’ Funeral,” The East Hampton Star, May 23, 1924, 1. For church support of Klan see “Local Minister Defends Klan,” The Port Jefferson Echo, August 18, 1923, 1. For Willis Field rally, see “Biggest Meeting of Klan Last Saturday,” The County Review, September 28, 1923, 1. For a Klan public lecture at Fraternity Hall in Patchogue, see “Ku Klux Klan Hold Forth in Patchogue,” The County Review, March 16, 1923, 5. For large Klan rally near Lake Ronkonkoma, see “Huge Klan Konklave Near Lake Grove,” The Suffolk County News, May 2, 1924, 1. For Klansmen helping to search vehicles see “Suffolk Aroused Over Hold-Ups of Motorists,” The County Review, June 6, 1924, 1.
Numbers of police force from “N.C.P.D. History,” Nassau County P.D. 3rd Precinct, http://www.the3rdprecinct.com/History.htm. “Campaign Is on to Put Stop to Drunken Driving,” Manhasset Mail, January 20, 1928, 1. “Nassau Police Raid Two Speakeasies in Manhasset Valley,” Manhasset Mail, February 18, 1932, 1. “Nassau Police Raid Stills in Roosevelt and Merrick,” The Suffolk County News, October 17, 1930, 11.
“Find Rum Hoard and Wireless,” The Suffolk County News, December 18, 1931, 1. “Police Do Battle with Rum Landing Party Here,” The Patchogue Advance, December 10, 1929, 1. “Speeding Rum Truck Caught at Coram with Big Load On,” The Patchogue Advance, December 9, 1930, 1. “Blue and Two Officers Fight Pistol Battle in Speeding Cars with Desperate Rum Runners,” The Patchogue Advance, November 25, 1930, 1. “The Underworld Menaces Suffolk,” The County Review, December 4, 1930, 20.
Holly Hepp, “Living Amid Legends: Mansion’s History Follows the Very Rich and Famous,” Newsday, August 23, 2001. Arthur Krystal, “Fitzgerald and the Jews,” The New Yorker, July 20, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/fitzgerald-and-the-jews.
“Says Rum Runners Set Up Reign of Terror on River,” The Patchogue Advance, January 10, 1930, 1.
“Men Were Branded with Hot Irons in Hijacking Feud, They Say,” The Patchogue Advance, June 30, 1931, 1. “Kidnappers in Riverhead Jail,” The Watchman of the Sunrise Trail [Mattituck, NY], July 2, 1931, 1. “Alleged Brander Caught in Jersey,” The Patchogue Advance, August 5, 1932, 1. “Knight Guilty of Torturing 2 Captives,” The County Review, May 11, 1933, 1. “Torturer Files Guilty Plea to Assault Charge,” The County Review, June 15, 1933, 9. “Sing Sing Cell Awaits Walker Torturer of 2,” The County Review, July 13, 1933, 1.
In 1928 Congress passed the Jones Law, which imposed a five year prison term and a $10,000 fine for violators of the Volstead Act. However, the law likely discouraged amateurs but did not deter large-scale criminal enterprises. Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010), 317, 319-320. 80% decline from “To Close Bay Shore Dry Office,” The Suffolk County News, June 10, 1932, 8. District Attorney Blue quoted in “Federal Office Angered by Destruction of Liquor,” The East Hampton Star, March 14, 1930, 1.
Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010), 161-167. Malcolm F. Willoughby, Rum War at Sea (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), 17-18, 23.
Malcolm F. Willoughby, Rum War at Sea (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), 40-42, 50-51 (12-mile limit), 45-47 (new vessels and men).
Date of shipyard’s 1922 start from Laura Schofer, “Marker Honors Freeport Point Shipyard,” LI Herald, October 2, 2015, http://liherald.com/freeport/stories/Marker-honors-Freeport-Point-Shipyard,72108. See also “Profile: Fred Scopinich Boat Builder,” Long Island Traditions Newsletter 19, no. 2 (Spring-Summer 2012), 1; http://www.longislandtraditions.org/pages/newsletters/spr-sum2012.pdf. Number of boats built from Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010), 280. Construction specifications of Wanda and Maureen are from half models built by Fred Scopinich Jr. A photograph of the Maureen on a marine railway from October 1930 in the collection of Fred Scopinich notes that it was “built for Bill Kleb.” Whether this was William J. Kleb (age 27) or William P. Kleb (age 51) is unknown, but son and father were both plumbers and Baldwin residents, as listed in the 1930 census. “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X78R-MZ3: accessed 1 August 2017), William J Kleb, Hempstead, Nassau, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 101, sheet 20A, line 36, family 549, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1459; FHL microfilm 2,341,194. “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X78R-QKR: accessed 1 August 2017), William P Kleb, Hempstead, Nassau, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 101, sheet 18B, line 82, family 509, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1459; FHL microfilm 2,341,194.
Jack Graves, “Captain Pitts of Montauk,” The East Hampton Star, November 27, 1975, 11. Rick Brand, “Rum-Running Flavored Island’s Past,” Newsday, November 19, 1978, 33. For explanation of practice of using halves of a dollar bill, see Malcolm F. Willoughby, Rum War at Sea (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), 58-59.
“Storm Brings Rum to Sayville,” The Suffolk County News, February 25, 1927, 8. “Rum Ship Wrecked, Townsfolk Save Crew, Then Brave Raging Sea to Share in Liquor,” The New York Times, February 21, 1927, 1. Daniel E. Russell, “The Wreck of the Rum-Runner WT Bell,” Glen Cove Heritage, http://www.glencoveheritage.com/legacy_site/wtbell.pdf.
Artemis construction details from Tim Colton, “Consolidated Shipbuilding, Morris Heights, NY,” Shipbuilding History, http://www.shipbuildinghistory.com/shipyards/yachtsmall/consolidated.htm; “Smugglers Shot by Guards and Boat Disabled,” The Patchogue Advance, August 25, 1931, 1, 5; For ex-rum runner Black Duck as the Coast Guard vessel chasing the Artemis, see J. Ann Funderburg, Rumrunners: Liquor Smugglers on America’s Coasts, 1920-1933 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2016), 56-57.
“9 Brooklyn Men Believed Lost with Tug at Sea,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 2, 1922, 1. Daniel Berg, Wreck Valley, Vol. II (East Rockaway, NY: Aqua Explorers, Inc., 1990), 73-76.
Marilyn Elizabeth Perry, “Sabin, Pauline Morton,” American National Biography Online, http://www.anb.org/articles/06/06-00142.html; Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010), 38.
Pauline Morton Sabin, “I Changed My Mind on Prohibition,” The Outlook, June 13, 1928, 254, 272.
Grace C. Root, Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1934), 3.
Grace C. Root, Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1934), 25-29, 37; Sarah Seidman, “The New York Women Who Dismantled Prohibition,” Museum of the City of New York, December 15, 2015, http://www.mcny.org/story/new-york-women-who-dismantled-prohibition.
Grace C. Root, Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1934), 42-43, 67.
Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York, NY: Scribner, 2010), 350; Grace C. Root, Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1934), xiii, 77-81, 83-84, 86, 90-94. The Edward S. Moore mansion where the WONPR Executive Committee met on July 7, 1932 is now owned by the Roslyn Country Club and called the Royalton Mansion.
The 1920 U.S. Census showed that for the first time more Americans were living in urban areas than rural ones. “President Signs Beer Bill Today,” Plattsburgh Daily Republican, March 22, 1933, 1.
History of John F. Trommer, Inc. from Suzanne Spellen, “Past and Present: Trommer’s Evergreen Brewery and Restaurant,” Brownstoner, January 10, 2014, http://www.brownstoner.com/history/past-and-present-trommers-evergreen-brewery-and-restaurant/. This photograph of George Trommer christening a delivery truck on April 6, 1933 is in the collection of the Brooklyn Public Library (Negative # 1984-1).
History of Claudio’s from “History,” Claudio’s Restaurant, https://www.claudios.com/claudios-restaurant/history/. For Claudio’s advertisement, see “Knickerbocker Days are Here Again,” The County Review, April 13, 1933, 3.
“Constitutional Convention Ratifies Prohibition Repeal,” Plattsburgh Daily Press, June 28, 1933, 1. “Eighteenth Amendment Goes on Shelf Today,” Plattsburgh Daily Press, December 5, 1933, 1.
“Repeal Came Quietly,” The Suffolk County News, December 8, 1933, 1.
Grace C. Root, Women and Repeal: The Story of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1934), xiv; “National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union,” https://www.wctu.org/.
“Capone Gets 11 Years in Prison,” Plattsburgh Daily Republican, October 26, 1931, 1. “Dutch Schultz Dies From Bullets with Two Henchmen,” Plattsburgh Daily Press, October 25, 1935, 1. “Gangland Bullets Wipe Out Siegel, ‘No. 1’ Gangster,” Endicott Daily Bulletin [Endicott, NY], June 21, 1947, 1.
“Mona Lola Rum Cargo Is Piling Up on Beach,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 3, 1935, 1.
In 2017, thirty-seven towns in New York State remain partially dry, while eight towns are completely dry: Caneadea (Allegany County), Clymer (Chautauqua County), Lapeer (Cortland County), Orwell (Oswego County), Fremont (Steuben County), Jasper (Steuben County), Berkshire (Tioga County), and Argyle (Washington County). Bill Mahoney, “Pop the Corks: Neversink No Longer is Dry,” Politico, November 4, 2015, In 2017, thirty-seven towns in New York State remain partially dry, while eight towns are completely dry: Caneadea (Allegany County), Clymer (Chautauqua County), Lapeer (Cortland County), Orwell (Oswego County), Fremont (Steuben County), Jasper (Steuben County), Berkshire (Tioga County), and Argyle (Washington County). Bill Mahoney, “Pop the Corks: Neversink No Longer is Dry,” Politico, November 4, 2015, http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2015/11/pop-the-corks-neversink-no-longer-is-dry-027571 . Don Cazentre, “Upstate NY’s 45 Dry or Partially Dry Towns: You Can’t Buy a Drink Here,” NYUp.com, October 3, 2017, http://www.newyorkupstate.com/drinks/2017/10/upstate_nys_dry_and_partially_dry_towns_you_cant_buy_a_drink_here.html. Don Cazentre, “Upstate NY’s 45 Dry or Partially Dry Towns: You Can’t Buy a Drink Here,” NYUp.com, October 3, 2017, http://www.newyorkupstate.com/drinks/2017/10/upstate_nys_dry_and_partially_dry_towns_you_cant_buy_a_drink_here.html.