Poison Booze

The trouble with Prohibition is that it made liquor illegal . . . which made it impossible to regulate. Historians estimate that by the time Prohibition was rescinded in 1933, about 98% of all liquor contained poisons of some sort. Scary, huh?

Part of the problem was greed, part was amateur manufacturing. Adding embalming fluid gave bathtub gin an extra kick, so that was not uncommon. Some say this was the introduction of fruity mixed drinks, which were invented by bartenders to cover up the bad taste of the illegal hooch. Adulterated booze was known as money rum, sometimes bathtub gin. It was seldom real rum or gin, just moonshine, and it was often deadly.

Seems everyone knew someone who had died or gone blind after drinking bad booze. It probably happened far more often than anyone today appreciates–without any reliable statistics (it was illegal, after all) we can’t really know the extent of the devastation. Estimates by historians today suggest that during the first year of Prohibition, one thousand people died from adulterated liquor. By the fifth year, the annual toll had risen to four thousand. Why didn’t this cause more of a scandal? Remember, communications in that era were weak. People didn’t know much about what was going on in other states or even other parts of their own state. It’s a very sad side of the madcap “Roaring Twenties.” 

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Published in: on September 11, 2011 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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