Bootlegging in the Basement

When I gave a lecture on the Roaring Twenties to the Campbell County Historical Society last week, I mentioned several examples of reputable institutions that dabbled in making illegal liquor, such as one hospital in Los Angeles that began ordering denatured alcohol by the boxcar instead of by the gallon, as it did before Prohibition, and churches buying ten times the amount of “sacramental wine” that they previously used. 

Well, Campbell County, Virginia, had an example of its own: the Academy Center of the Arts in Lynchburg. A newspaper article from 1918* told about a police raid on the Academy of Music Theater that resulted in the confiscation of 71 pints of liquor, along with the arrest of the theater manager and a stage hand. It seems that bootlegging in the basement brought in some extra income.

(*If you’re thinking that 1918 date is a mistake because Prohibition didn’t start until 1920, you’re thinking about national Prohibition. Virginia and several other states began their own version of prohibition several years before the rest of the country.)

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Published in: on May 3, 2018 at 3:23 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. Very interesting Mary. I was not aware of the earlier start for some states. I always enjoy your posts. I loaned The Impersonator to a friend and haven’t had the chance to read it yet but am certainly looking forward to it and other works of yours. I thoroughly enjoyed your book Stolen Memories.

    • Not only did some states start their prohibition earlier than 1920, others continued it after 1933 when national prohibition ended. Mississippi was the last to repeal prohibition, not until 1966.


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