america’s top 5 finest bootleggers

Image Credit: Wikimedia
A psychosis swept across America in the early 20th century leading enough lawmakers to agree with enough angry, often hatchet-wielding temperance activists to pass the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting the sale, manufacture, distribution and consumption of alcohol. The prohibition era was born ““ as was modern organized crime. Yet alcohol continued to flow between December 18th, 1917 and February 20th, 1933, as if no booze ban had ever been imposed. Some of the illicit liquor was brewed in bathtubs or served from stockpiles. Other thirsty, sober Americans turned to a new breed of scofflaw: the rumrunner, the gin jockey “¦ the bootlegger!

5 Dutch Shultz

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If you lived in New York in the 1920s and you liked booze, then you liked Dutch Shultz. That’s because he moved a lot of booze in his brief life, most of it via trucks coming down from Canada. His first career was as a trucker; his second was as a trucker who smuggled booze and shot people who got in his way. Dutch was notoriously violent and ruthless, soon adding racketeering, extortion and robbery to his repertoire of activities. When he revealed plans to assassinate a prominent federal attorney, his criminal compatriots had Dutch murdered to avoid the heat the prosecutor’s death would have caused them.

4 Lucky Luciano

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Picture a “œclassic”Italian-American mobster in your head, and the person you are imagining is probably a dead-ringer for Lucky Luciano. By the time he was in his 20s, Luciano was a millionaire many times over thanks to crimes ranging from bootlegging to prostitution to gambling. By the time he was in his 30s, Lucky was overseeing a network of criminals that had influence over cities ranging from New York to Kansas to Los Angeles. He was finally sent to prison in the late “˜30s on charges associated with his prostitution ring. He spent only 10 years in prison thanks to his efforts during WWII helping military intelligence collude with mafia contacts. His luck ran out due to a heart attack in 1962.

3 William McCoy

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William McCoy was one of the most successful rumrunners, so let’s be fair: This guy did a lot more than just smuggle Caribbean rum into Prohibition Era America. He also helped transport whiskey, gin, wine and more. McCoy never cut his booze with water or other substances, and for its quality, discerning drinkers began demanding “œthe real McCoy,”hence the phrase. McCoy only spent nine months in jail for his activities, of which he remained openly proud throughout his life. A life during which he never drank, by the way!

2 Junior Johnson

Junior Johnson is cooler than you are; accept that and move on. In his heyday, he was one of the most successful racecar drivers in America. How did he learn to drive so well? Why, outrunning federal agents in pursuit while transporting the family’s illegal liquor during his teenage years, of course. Even after prohibition was repealed, making moonshine liquor was a great way to make fast cash, and Johnson Sr. made a lot of both. It was up to young Junior to hustle the booze all over Wilkes County, North Carolina in the 1940s and early “˜50s.

1 George Remus

Image Credit: Wikimedia

During the Prohibition Era, George Remus played two roles: one was that of a fine, upstanding lawyer from Cincinnati-via-Germany; the other was a swinging, hard-partying, larger-than-life booze baron. Remus watched as the criminals he defended became millionaires almost overnight thanks to sales of illegal booze, and he said: “œYep.”Remus used both legal loopholes in the 18th amendment, such as legally buying “œmedicinal liquor”from existing stockpiles, with good old illegal distilling, shipment hijacking, trap-door warehouses and guys with machine guns. The party ended with a two-year stint in prison in 1925. In 1927, Remus shot his ex-wife to death after their divorce, but he got off with a six-month stint thanks to a temporary insanity plea. He died in the “˜50s in relative obscurity.

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