This is believed to be a picture from Rhum Chauvet taken around 1910. Rum Chauvet was a company on Guadeloupe that blended Rum from different distilleries from Martinique and Guadeloupe.
January 17, 1920 - A day that will go down in rum history infamy. One year before, the United States Congress ratified the 18th Amendment prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes. Deemed the "Noble Experiment", Prohibition was the result of a wave of religious revivalism calling for temperance which had been sweeping throughout the country for decades.By the turn of the century, temperance societies like the Woman's Christian Temperance Union were extremely vocal in communities across the United States. Women played a strong role in the ant-liquor movement, as alcohol consumption was seen as a destructive force in families and marriages.
An interesting fact: It was never illegal to drink during Prohibition. The 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, the legal measure that included the instructions for enforcing Prohibition, never barred the consumption of alcohol--just making it, selling it, and shipping it for mass production and consumption.
Both federal and local government had difficulties enforcing Prohibition over the course of the 1920s. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was initially assigned to enforce the "Volstead Act" , bu it was later transferred to the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prohibition, or Prohibition Bureau.
In general, Prohibition was enforced much more strongly in areas where the population was sympathetic to the legislation–mainly rural areas and small towns–and much more loosely in urban areas. Despite very early signs of success, including a decline in arrests for drunkenness and a reported 30 percent drop in alcohol consumption, those who wanted to keep drinking found ever-more inventive ways to do it.
Founder of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in 1874, Carrie Nation was a staunch supporter of Prohibition. When local saloons ignored the ban on alcohol put in place by the government, she would go from speakeasy to speakeasy and destroy bottles and other bar fixtures with her hatchet which was engraved with the words "Death to Rum" on the handle. She referred to these as "hatchetations." Sometimes she would travel with a group of women that would sing hymns to accompany her smashing. She was arrested over 30 times for her "hatchetations" and eventually started publishing a newspaper about stopping alcohol called "The Hatchet."
The illegal manufacturing and sale of liquor, known as “bootlegging" - from the smugglers' custom of hiding packages of valuables in the legs of their large boots - went on throughout the decade, along with the operation of "speakeasies" “ - stores or nightclubs that sold alcohol, the smuggling of alcohol across state lines and the informal production of liquor (“moonshine” or “bathtub gin”) in private homes.
In addition, the Prohibition era encouraged the rise of criminal activity associated with bootlegging. The most notorious example was gangster Al Capone, who earned a staggering $60 million annually from bootleg operations and speakeasies.
Books such as "Giggle Water" began to appear during Prohibition to educate clandestine imbibers on methods on alcohol production along with recipes for modified cocktails. This cocktail book contains 290 recipes, presumably from the top New York Clubs of the time, which seemed to be flourishing despite the ban.
An unfortunate consequence of Prohibition was the production of low quality - and often dangerous - liquor to satisfy the drinker's demands for liquor. These spirits became known as "Bathtub Gins" - any style of homemade spirit made in amateur conditions such as a common bathtub.
Recognizing the need for quality - and safe - alcoholic spirits, entrepreneurs began to import properly produced products from the Caribbean.
Ships loaded with Rum, Whiskey and other spirits would drop anchor just in international waters - just out of reach of the authorities. Smaller, faster boats that could easily outrun the slower Coast Guard ships. The captains of these "contact ships" would toss a bundle of large-denomination bills bound by elastic bands onto the anchored ships, tload their liquor orders onto their boats and speed towards shore to load it onto trucks headed for New York, Boston and other cities. One such stretch of ocean known for anchored liquor-selling boats was famously called “Rum Row,” and became so populated that it appeared to be a floating city from shore. It ran from New York to Atlantic City, 12 miles out in international waters to avoid the U.S. Coast Guard.
One of the most famous Rum Runners was Bill McCoy. A boat builder for wealthy families before Prohibition, Bill seized on the opportunity to utilize his ships to set up business. He would load up his ship while in islands such as the Bahamas and transport them to "safe" locations including Rum Row. The quality of his imported products were so good, it was said that if you purchased from him, you were guaranteed the best or the "Real McCoy".
Eventually, he was caught and served a short - reportedly a very comfortable - incarceration.
In addition to being credited with inventing Rum Row, Bill is also said to have developed the "smugglers ham" or "burlock" -aka sacks by the US Coast Guard). These sacks provided a more convenient form of moving and transporting the illegal liquors between vessels. A "ham" consisted of a pyramid stack of 6 bottles - stacked 3,2,1 - wrapped tightly in straw and burlap. These bundles could be easily stacked top to tail and were quicker and safer to move between vessels than the standard wooden cases of 12. Some "bullocks" were even stuffed with salt which, if about to be boarded by authorities, could be thrown overboard where they would sink with the weight of the salt hiding any incriminating evidence. Later the salt would dissolve and leave the sack floating back to the surface for collection - and sale - once again.
Rum Running was not completely dominated by men such as Bill McCoy, though. Legendary female Rum Runners such as "Cleo" Lythgoe (pictured) and "Spanish Marie" Waite were a major presence during Prohibition. Cleo was well-known for her business acumen, hard-nosed attitude, and her highly profitable liquor shipping operations.
Earning the nickname “Cleo” due to her striking resemblance to Cleopatra, she started her career as a stenographer for a British liquor importer in New York. Sensing an opportunity to use her connections in the liquor business, she commissioned her own flotilla of boats. Setting up shop in a notorious location in The Bahamas known as "Bootleggers Headquarters", she repeatedly staved off would be competitors that would attempt to intimidate her by fearlessly confronting and threatening them.
As it became clear that the Coast Guard was overmatched while attempting legal enforcements, the government began to commission faster vessels and negotiate alliances with foreign governments to capture the Rum Runners. After the Coast Guard obtained fast “six-bitter” patrol boats and by 1926 could block the contact boats from making it ashore, many Rum Runners to dump their liquor into the ocean to avoid arrest. In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that American-flagged ships with illegal liquor could be seized up to 34 miles from shore pushing Rum Row farther out to sea which made it more difficult to make a profit.
The end of Prohibition came on December 5, 1933. After a 2/3 majority of States voted for the 21st Amendment - which basically repealed the 18th Amendment - President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a professed imbiber, proudly announced "What America needs now is a drink!".
By the early 1930's, it became clear that Prohibition had become a failure. The 18th Amendment had done little to curb the sale, production and consumption of intoxicating liquors. While organized crime flourished, tax revenues withered. Before Prohibition in 1907, it had been estimated that alcohol sales constituted a whopping 80% of all federal internal tax revenues! It is thought that the 1913 Amendment to mandate a tax on income was a preventative method by the government to replace this lost revenue stream if Prohibition was enacted.
A bootlegger and speakeasy operator during Prohibition, Ernest Gantt, AKA Donn Beach or Don the Beachcomber, spent his early professional career aboard merchant ships gaining exposure to the culture of the South Pacific. At the end of Prohibition, he saw a need for American escapism to a tropical experience.
Living in the Los Angeles area at the time, he had ready access to themed movie props. Utilizing his knowledge of spirits, he opened his first restaurant in 1933 focusing on capturing the essence and paying tribute to his love of the South Pacific. Patrons were whisked away to a world far away - without having to travel halfway around the globe! His philosophy was simple: “If you can’t get to paradise, I’ll bring it to you."
Often called "The Father of Tiki", one of his major contributions to the cocktail world was a legacy of mixology - he is credited with inventing an astounding 84 different Tiki cocktails! He stocked his bar with inexpensive rums from the Caribbean and invented an array of faux-tropical drinks, using fruit juices and unfamiliar liqueurs.
His restaurant empire eventually grew to 35 locations around the United States and spurred numerous others such as Trader Vics.
As Tiki themed restaurants began popping up around the US, its popularity was at an all time high in the 1950s. Celebrities frequented the many Polynesian-esqe locations accentuating the glamor and intrigue curated by the craze. This obsession with Tiki extended further than just bars and restaurants, though. It also heavily influenced popular music and movies. Music genres associated with the sounds of the tropics began to account for a quarter of all music sales during the 1950s and 60s. Movies featuring characters such as "The Big Kahuna" and tropical settings became commonplace.
At the height of the Tiki craze in the 50's and 60's, restaurants like the Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale were packed!
Unfortunately, due to negative impressions of tropical locations during the Vietnam conflict and an increasingly dis-interest public looking for the "next fad", Tiki's popularity began to wain in the 1970's. Nightclubs and bars began to focus on experiences such as Disco and the Polynesian themed restaurants began to shutter.
At the end of the 90's and into the 2000's, however, Tiki has shown a resurgence. Heavily attended events such as the Hukilau and Tiki Oasis have exposed this lifestyle to a whole new generation of rum and cocktail enthusiasts.
Ernest Hemingway and spirits consumption seem to have always been synonymous in popular culture. His unabashed passion for all things alcohol and the fellowship of a drink-fueled adventure have become legendary. He particularly enjoyed extended encounters at some of his favorite haunts such as El Floridita (his favorite daiquiris) in Havana, Cuba and Sloppy Joe's in Key West, Florida along with his buddy, Joe Russell. When not frequenting one of these watering holes, he could probably be found about his boat, Pilar, with a drink in hand. By the way, he wrote some really good books, too.
All good things must come to an end and, unfortunately, so did the Royal Navy's centuries old tradition of providing a daily ration of rum to thirsty sailors known as "Jack Tars". July 31, 1970 ended this tradition and has become known as Black Tot Day.
In the Seventies, the government questioned the compatibility of distributing a rum ration in relation to the modern role of a Royal Navy sailor. Essentially, they were concerned that alcohol and sophisticated weaponry were probably a recipe for disaster. The Admiralty conceded that there was no longer any official need for daily rum and so the tradition sadly came to an end.
Royal Navy sailors lining up for a Daily Tot before the elimination of the traditional rum ration.