Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A little about Prohibition

What is a Speakeasy? 

On Facebook on June 25th, we posted the following anecdote of the origin of the term 86:

A speakeasy by the name of Chumley's was located at 86 Bedford Street in New York City. During Prohibition, patrons would enter through a courtyard door for privacy. Moments before a raid, cops would call ahead with a friendly heads-up. The bartender would shout "86 everybody," which meant everybody should scram through the 86 Bedford Street door because the cops would be coming in the courtyard door.

After posting this we started exploring a bit more of the Prohibition culture and times.

Dive Bar Shirt Club
Image courtesy of David Shankbone
Speakeasies are establishments that illegally sell alcoholic beverages. They become famous during the Prohibition Era (1920-1933). During the Prohibition the federal government decided to ban the sale of alcohol, and much like the current War on Drugs was a complete and utter failure.

Speakeasies still invoke an amazing image in the mind, though. Walking through innocuous buildings, descending into basements, a secret knock on a door, a password given to separate patron from police…speakeasies represent a culture and time that was both dangerous and exciting. And everyone knows that alcohol loves danger and excitement!

Take a ride on the White Lightning!

Another effect of the Prohibition was the growth of moonshine culture. Moonshining is illegal distillation, consumption, transportation, and sale of home distilled alcohol. Moonshine usually contains high amounts of alcohol that far exceed federal regulations. During the Prohibition, many moonshiners made bank distilling and distributing their homemade, one-of-a-kind alcohol.

Dive Bar Shirt Club
During the Prohibition the US saw the rise of the classic gangster and organized crime. Famous gangsters included Al Capone, Frank Costello, Carlo Gambino, the Kray Twins Reginald and Ronald, Lucky Luciano, and Johnny Torrio. Now, that the Prohibition is about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of being signed into law, the names of Al Capone and the speakeasy culture has passed, but lives on in our histories, films, and imaginations.

We are relieved to live in a time when it is not illegal to consume alcohol. We glorify the bar with our Dive Bar Shirt Club shirts. We are excited to remember the history of our nation and to reflect upon the similarities between the Prohibition and the continuing War on Drugs.

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