The Rise of Speakeasies

"Where on Manhattan Island can you buy liquor? ANSWER: In open saloons, restaurants, night clubs, bars behind a peephole, dancing academies, drugstores, delicatessens, cigar stores, confectioneries, soda fountains, behind partitions of shoeshine parlors, back rooms of barbershops, from hotel bellhops, from hotel headwaiters, from hotel day clerks, night clerks, in express offices, in motorcycle delivery agencies, paint stores . . .importing firms, tearooms, moving van companies, spaghetti houses, boardinghouses, Republican clubs, Democratic clubs, laundries . ."

To me, this is a very comical quote. Even during prohibition, one could obtain liquor at any of these locations - which shows how high the want of alcohol was to many Americans.

One statistic that shows the overwhelming growth of speakeasies is for the city of Detroit. In 1918 before prohibition, Detroit had 2,334 liquor serving establishments. During the height of prohibition, 1925, Detroit had 15,000 establishments that served alcohol. Find out what made Detroit a Bootlegger's DREAM

A Historical Display of Speakeasies, including the "rules."

"In addition to speakeasies, the American populous also came up with innovative ways to circumvent the law. They used hip flasks, false books, coconut shells, hot water bottles and garden hoses to transport illegal liquor. People also stored the contraband in prams with babies perched on top and in carpenter's aprons with big fat pockets. One man was even caught hustling liquor over the border in two boxes of eggs: He had drained the eggs of their original content and refilled them with liquor."

Speakeasies popped up everywhere. One site said that as soon as the owner could get a padlock for the door, the speakeasy was good to go. Although they were places where the law was being broken, they did a lot of good. First of, the bars of the early twentieth century were mainly hang outs for men. However, speakeasies were open to both men and women. Jazz also blossomed during this era, the speakeasies provided an outlet for musicians to play and all had a good time! The painting above shows an accurate description of what a speakeasy was like for the participants.

Interestingly, many professional bartenders refused to serve alcohol illegally. They would often concoct different drinks from different ingredients to serve their customers.

Many people wonder why prohibition failed. One of the primary reasons was that there just was not enough money, or police power to stop illegal places like speakeasies from popping up. I think there is another reason. Corruption has a lot to do with the reason why prohibition ended up failing. The following is a story out of Detroit, probably one of the best places to be a bootlegger or to find an illegal drink. "When the state police raided the Deutsches Haus at Mack and Maxwell, they arrested Detroit Mayor John Smith, Michigan Congressman Robert Clancy and Sheriff Edward Stein. From St. Clair Shores' Blossom Heath on Jefferson to Little Harry's downtown, to the Green Lantern Club in Ecorse, Detroit's most upstanding citizens fed the coffers of the gangs that were reaping huge fortunes from their appetite for alcohol." Even elected officials fell into the trap of speakeasies!

Read More About Speakeasies

The picture on the left shows the aftermath of a raid on a speakeasy.
The picture on the right shows cards that people could use to gain access to speakeasies

The Stork Club, a famous New York City Speakeasy.

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