The “wettest” place in America? And in the Roaring Twenties, that didn’t mean rain.

 

new_york_ref_2001

Using statistics compiled by Prudential Life Insurance in the 1920s, the wettest state in America was . . . . drum roll, please . . . . New York, with 2 1/2 times the death from alcohol poisoning rate of the average in the country. (Florida and California were not far behind.) Okay, you guessed New York, right? But there was one other place that was comparable. More drum roll . . . Washington, D.C., where the Prohibition laws originated. 

Other cities that vied for the distinction of “wettest:” Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh. What do those cities have in common with New York City? Immigrants and Catholics, two groups (sometimes overlapping) that were very much against government regulation of alcohol. Plus politicians who refused to spend money to enforce the laws. The ideal circumstances for gangsters and bootleggers to thrive were dry politicians at the federal and state level who would vote for prohibition laws, and and wet politicians/police at the local level who would ignore the laws and refuse to enforce them. This is eventually what developed in most American cities. 

 

 

 

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