Four and a half years into Prohibition, journalist Jack O'Donnell reported that there were as many as 25,000 women who had run-afoul of the law in an effort to earn a quick buck working for bootleggers:
"They range in age from six to sixty. They are recruited from all ranks and stations of life - from the slums of New York's lower East Side, exclusive homes of California, the pine clad hills of Tennessee, the wind-swept plains of Texas, the sacred precincts of exclusive Washington... Women in the bootleg game are becoming a great problem to law enforcement officials. Prohibition agents, state troopers and city police - gallant gentlemen all - hesitate to embarrass women by stopping their cars to inquire if they are carrying hooch. The bootleggers and smugglers are aware of this fact and take advantage of it."
Verily, so numerous were these lush lassies - the Federal Government saw fit to construct a prison compound in which to incarcerate them; you can read about that here...
When the four brothers La Montagne were arrested for violating the Volstead Act in 1922, the social butterflies of New York society were shocked; not simply because some of their own had been roughed-up by the police, but shocked because they had no idea as to where they were to acquire their illegal hooch in the future.
"The plea for leniency made by several well-known lawyers, on the grounds of social prominence of the accused, was 'pitiable and foolish', in the opinion of the New York Globe.
"In summing up his case...the United States District Attorney said":
"'To allow these defendants to escape with a fine, it seems to me, would...justify the belief that men of great wealth or influence or power are above the law.'"
Attached is an editorial that was co-authored by George Jean Nathan and H.L. Mencken from their reoccurring column in The Smart Set: "Répétition Générale". This brief column sought to expose the damages inflicted upon the country by the "guardians of the national virtue" and their bastard children, Prohibition and the Volstead Act, which will primarily serve to promote the wide (though illegal) distribution of all the poorest distilled spirits concocted in the most "remote frontiers of civilization".
- from Amazon:
Prohibition had been in place for a little over eleven and a half years by the time this uncredited editorial was published. The column is informative for all the trivial events that Prohibition had set in motion and are seldom remembered in our own time - such as the proliferation of private golfing institutions; clubs that intended to appear innocent enough, but were actually created for "Wet" dues-paying golfers. A recently posted article (1917) that appeared in THE LITERARY DIGEST near the end of 1929 examined the astronomical wealth that had been earned by the gangsters in America's biggest cities.
It is said that the Eighteenth Amendment would never have come into being without the efforts of one Wayne Bidwel Wheeler (1869 – 1927), and who are we to doubt it. In this column, the father of Prohibition recalls the numerous times throughout American history in which those who held minority opinions bit the bullet and acquiesced to will of the majority - all but one faction, "the liquor interests". Time and again, he points out, this was the one tribe that wouldn't budge.
By 1927 it was common knowledge to every Chicago-based journalist that any reporter who wrote truthfully or seemed in any way outraged by the business practices of Al Capone - and others of his ilk, was likely to be found face down in Lake Michigan. The writer who penned this piece probably had that fact in mind while sitting at the typewriter; it is not an apology for the Chicago gangsters, it simply implies that they are established, the police are complicit - so get used to it. The writer then begins to explain how the bootlegging and distribution business operated - some of the up-and-coming hoods of the day must have been gratified to read that there was plenty of room for advancement within each organization.
Click here to see a chart indicating the decreased murder rate following the repeal of Prohibition.
A history of Chicago vaudeville can be read here...