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Prohibition in Michigan

80 years ago today, the 21st Amendment to United States Constitution was passed, and 13 years of national Prohibition came to an end.

The Purple Gang hide their faces from the camera

The Purple Gang hide their faces from the camera

Prohibition was a dark time in our nation’s history. Not just because of the lack of legal booze, but because of the rise of violence and crime that it gave birth to. People went to extremes to secure alcohol, often by any means necessary. Organized crime rose up to replace the formerly legal methods of production and distribution – none more notorious than Detroit’s own Purple Gang. The Purple Gang ruled Detroit’s illegal alcohol trade. They were widely feared and often used extreme violence to keep their iron grip on Detroit’s bootlegging economy. They were finally brought down by the Collingwood Manor Massacre in 1931 – a crime so violent that it shocked the city.

Detroit was at the heart of the illegal alcohol trade. Experts estimate that 75% of all the illegal alcohol in the country during Prohibition crossed over the Detroit River – referred to as the Windsor-Detroit Funnel. By 1929 rumrunning was Detroit’s second largest industry, and even more liquor was produced in illegal distilleries in the metro-Detroit area. While this bootlegged alcohol was distributed around the country, Detroit was kept particularly well-stocked; in 1928 it was estimated that there were between 16,000 and 25,000 speakeasies operating in the Detroit area.cartoon-floodOver the course of the 13 years of Prohibition, Detroit saw a loss of jobs that legal drinking used to provide coupled with increased violence and crime, and by 1933, they were sick of it. Michigan passed a state-level repeal, and was also the first state in the country to ratify the 21st Amendment and officially repeal Prohibition. The Amendment was finally ratified on December 5, 1933 when Utah voted to ratify and created the ¾ majority required.

 

So today, we celebrate a national coming to our senses moment, when the country realized that alcohol is a vital part of economies, and that the rich tradition of distilling is an art not to be compromised. It’s a perfect day to mix up a cocktail made with some New Holland or Two Birds Artisan Spirits Gin, Valentine Vodka, Grand Traverse Wheat Vodka, or Northern Latitudes Deer Camp Whiskey to celebrate our legal right to drink.

Cheers!

 

Alcohol, discovered by Prohibition agents during a raid on an illegal distillery, pours out of upper windows of three--story storefront in Detroit during Prohibition.

Alcohol, discovered by Prohibition agents during a raid on an illegal distillery, pours out of upper windows of three–story storefront in Detroit during Prohibition.

 

Alcohol, discovered by Prohibition agents during a raid on an illegal distillery, pours out of upper windows of three--story storefront in Detroit during Prohibition.

An ingenious, anonymous man demonstrates for reporters how one can transport flasks of alcohol throughout the city during Prohibition.

 

Rum-runners bring alcohol across the frozen Detroit River in sleds.

Rum-runners bring alcohol across the frozen Detroit River in sleds.

 

 

Men ride on a float through the streets of downtown Detroit in support of the repeal of Prohibition during the city's "Beer Parade."

Men ride on a float through the streets of downtown Detroit in support of the repeal of Prohibition during the city’s “Beer Parade.”

 

An interior view of a blind pig located at 932 E. Columbia, near the corner Randolph in downtown Detroit.

An interior view of a blind pig located at 932 E. Columbia, near the corner Randolph in downtown Detroit.

 

Members of the "Clean-up squad" relax after a raid on the "Oasis" at the College of the City of Detroit. Left to right: Leo Sonner, Charles Russell, Sgt. George P. Frank, and Louis Paquette

Members of the “Clean-up squad” relax after a raid on the “Oasis” at the College of the City of Detroit.
Left to right: Leo Sonner, Charles Russell, Sgt. George P. Frank, and Louis Paquette

 

Prohibtion Repealed!

Prohibtion Repealed!

 

 

Photo Credits

 

About Trisha

Trisha is a marketing professional with craft beer, red wine, and bourbon obsessions. She's also the co-founder of Drink Michigan.
  • Beer lover

    Cheers!

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