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Bootlegging stories

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What I find interesting is that this collection of arrests etc. took place in a typcial midwestern industry town...Davenport, IA...so if it was widespread there it was all over the place. Some of the newspaper accounts are funny when you consider the legalities and the circumstances.

Davenport Democrat and Leader; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; May 6, 1923


Fourteen Arrested in Disorderly Houses Attacked by Officers

Fritz Ziebarth’s lugubrious recital of how he had been robbed of five dollars in the establishment of Mrs. Agnes Thiel, 328 ½ West First street, Saturday afternoon led to a raid on the Thiel place which netted four prisoners last night. As a follow-up police entered the Mrs. Mildred Brennan house at 422 ½ West Second street, arresting seven men and three women.

Ziebarth, who lives in Fishertown, told Chief Schlueter that he had bought several drinks at Mrs. Thiel’s place and that, when he dropped a five dollar bill as he was paying his debt of two dollars, the woman grabbed the bill from the floor and refused to give it back. Ziebarth’s disclosure of conditions at the Thiel place caused the raid.

When police officers Homeyer, Kuehl, Hennely, and Phelan walked in they found two men and two women, who gave their names as F. Blakemore, J. Spencer, Ruth Woods and Hezel Wiese. The four were arrested on charges of immoral living.

At the Brennan place a party was in progress when the officers called. The men and women were sitting at a table with a pint of hooch in evidence. Those arrested gave their names as Al Rush, J. Wiels, J. Russell, Al Johnson, George Morrison and Rose Murray. Mrs. Brennan was taken into custody as the keeper of a disorderly house, while her guests were booked as inmates.

All those arrested in the raids will be tried in police court Monday morning.

Davenport Democrat and Leader; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; May 29, 1923

“Sponge Squad” Seeks to Dry the Mississippi in Big Booze Drive

Prohibition men are “mopping up” the Mississippi Valley today. Federal and state agents were united in a great clean-up trip from Buffalo to LeClaire in which they were raiding houseboats and riverside shanties where bootleggers held forth.

Working on both sides of the river in what is perhaps the biggest “sponger squad” venture ever attempted from Davenport, the prohibition officials hope to choke off he supply-places of Tri-city hip liquor distributors.

Twenty-seven warrants, most of them calling for the arrest of that well known character, John Doe, were sworn out by the deputy sheriffs before they started on their Volstead mission late yesterday afternoon.

Sheriff William Brehmer headed the county officers, while James Risden of the state prohibition force and Federal Prohibition Officer Joseph Terrill were also the raiders. It was reported that a similar campaign,also directed by federal agents, was being carried out on the other side of the river.

Davenport Democrat and Leader; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; June 3, 1923


Seizure of a big double still, 350 gallons of whisky mash and a quantity of moonshine liquor in a floating hooch manufactory moored at Spencer's Island, opposite Pleasant Valley, Saturday, added a chapter to the story of river rum confiscation developed by Federal Prohibition Agent Roy E. Muhs and his aides during the last two weeks.

Suspicious looking dark smoke rising above trees on the island caused Frank E. Schutter, wealthy Pleasant Valley farmer and owner of the island, to get in touch with prohibition authorities, who timed their raid for Saturday afternoon. Riding to Pleasant Valley in Mr. Schutters luxurious Cadillac sedan, Mr. Muhs and his squad embarked in a rowboat for their objective, Mr. Schutter acting as pilot, Deputy U.S. Marshal Terence Kinney as steerer, and the prohibition agent as an oarsman.

Picking their way thru underbrush, the raiders came upon the houseboat at the Illinois side of the island. When prolonged knocks on the door of the boat failed to elicit any response, the door was opened. Inside the cabin boat a sight to astonish, even a hardened liquor sleuth met the eyes of officers. Two 30-gallon stills, a double condensing apparatus, stood in the middle of the floor, over a gas store. The rest of the floor was occupied by hogsheads of whisky mash.

Fuel for the gas stove was supplied from a gasoline tank on the roof of the boat. Another gas stove for emergency use, was stowed away in a cubby hole. A hydrometer, used for testing specific gravity of whisky, a 5-gallon jug containing three gallons of the finished product, a small quantity of syrup used for flavoring, and a number of children's toys - sling shots and a miniature boat - were found in corners and on unused sections of the floor.

An ax in the powerful hand of Marshal Kinney made short work of the hogsheads of mash, while the liquor manufacturing apparatus and paraphernalia was loaded into the rowboat and taken to the shore.

"Mayme" Keller, a clammer on Spencer's Island, told Mr. Muhs that the bootleggers had landed on the island on Memorial day or the day after coming from somewhere up the river. He said the party consisted of a man, woman, and two children, a girl and a boy. None of these persons were located Saturday afternoon, altho the fact that the stills were still warm when the raiders arrived was taken as evidence that they had made their departure a short time previous. A small blue rowboat, thought to have been used by the bootleggers, was discovered tied to the Iowa shore.

"The apparatus found in the cabin boat is worth every bit of a thousand dollars," Mr Muhs said after the raid. "This haul makes the total number of stills we have seized since last Wednesday thirteen, and the total number of gallons of hooch taken, fifty two."

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Check out this operation:

Davenport Democrat and Leader; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; June 12, 1923


"Doctored" commercial alcohol was sucked from Harry Puscas garage to his attic, while distilled, drinkable stuff gurgled merrily thru a pipe from the attic to the garage again. It was discovered by Davenport police officers and Federal Prohibition Agent Roy E. Muhs when they raided Puscas' place at 1013 East Fourteenth street yesterday afternoon.

Two fifty-gallon tanks, one for the rubbing alcohol which Puscas purchased at small cost and the other for the "finished" product gained after the alcohol had been pumped from the garage to the attic, distilled and then allowed to run back to the garage, were found buried a foot under the ground in the garage when Officers Dietz, Kuehl, McDermott and Muhs visited at the hooch factory at three o'clock.

Twelve gallons of alcohol, some distilled to rid it of impurities and some still drinkable were discovered by the raiders, who claim Puscas has been operating for three or four years.

The distilling apparatus could not be found, but officers claim they discovered broken parts of it. They assert that Puscas destroyed his still because he feared city or governmental influence.

Firemen who extinguished a small blaze in Puscas' attic last week discovered the still, it was made known today, and reported its existence to police. The attic fire was caused, it is alleged, by the heater under the still.

"The arrangement was the most novel I've ever seen, " Officer Pat Dietz said this morning. "Puscas had it fixed to that vehicles could load up with booze in the garage and nobody be any the wiser. He pumped the rubbing alcohol up to his attic and the distilled stuff flowed down to fill a tank in the garage."

Puscas was arrested on a charge of manufacturing liquor and will be arraigned in U.S. Commissioner's court. He was lodged in Scott county jail by police following his arrest."

> Rubbing alcohol "distilled"...yummy.

"Davenport Democrat and Leader; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; June 20, 1923


Lace Curtains Hide Fact That House at 1030 West Seventh Street is Vacant and That Windows Are Covered with Card Board Until Neighbors Become Suspicious - Federal Men and Police Officers Seek for Owner.

Two of the biggest stills ever seized by federal officers in the state of Iowa - one of them with a 100 gallon capacity - were seized in a vacant but camouflaged residence at 1013 West Seventh street late yesterday afternoon. As a result police and federal men are searching the city for the supposed owner of the stills today.

One of the most ingenious bootlegging plants ever uncovered here was discovered when Prohibition Officer Muhs and Police Officer Pat Dietz and Detective Pete Kuehl broke into the Seventh street house yesterday.

Lace curtains on the windows had given them the impression that the place was used as a residence but on entering they found it bare and unoccupied. Cardboard tacked over the windows behind the lace curtains guarded the place from inquisitive eyes.

In the cellar the officers found the two huge stills. The house is extended into the side of a hollow so that the basement is built out of the ground. Here was set up the 100 gallon still believed to be the largest ever seized by federal men in Iowa and also a 75-gallon still.

It is said with this equipment it would be possible to turn out 175 gallons of hooch every 24 hours.

Some 40 gallons of hooch was found in eight five-gallon jugs and besides this there were 100 gallons of rye mash. In the back yard there were trenches in which the exhausted mash was buried.

Arrest an Accident.

Capture of this immense bootlegging plant was partly accidental.

Officers Kuehl, Muhs and Dietz were riding out on other business about 6:20 o'clock last night when they smelled the alcoholic odor coming from the residence at 1013 West Seventh street. Neighbors told them that no one had been seen to leave or enter the place in two months.

The officers went to the court of Justice of the Peace Merle F. Wells and secured the warrants under which they conducted the raid.

It was learned by police officials this morning that Roy Haskins is the owner of the place where the liquor was seized. He lives at 1320 Jersey Ridge Road. Haskins will be interrogated by the police. It is believed that he rented the place to another party.

Officer Dietz and Mr. Muhs were investigating circumstances of the still case late this afternoon, but had not yet succeeded in verifying the identity of the owner. The only clue to be discovered so far is the name of the man who rented the house. His gas bill amounted to $75 a month, investigation has revealed.

Sam Moore was reported to have ordered a gas meter put in the Seventh street residence and he is being sought by the police.

> If you look at all of the dates...this shows more illegal hooch activity in a typical midwestern town than you find in todays arrest records for drugs...or at least equivalent. Now, maybe as prohibition went on the crack down took a dent out of the production...but I think the moonshiners just got smarter.

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On a different note...has anyone seen Public Enemies? It captured the era pretty well. I thought it was a pretty good account of the life of John Dillinger...Johnny Depp always does a great job. Great shoot out scenes....you see what a BAR could do...the shoot out at the Wisconsin cabin / resort are pretty intense. Marion Cotillard did a great job as his girlfriend.

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This one is hilarious:

"Davenport Democrat and Leader; Davenport, Scott, Iowa; August 13, 1923


Because he sold hooch in coffee cups at the Mississippi Valley Fair Sunday, Charles "Cracker" Meyer faced charges violating the national prohibition act in the court of the United States Commissioner A.G. Bush today. He was arrested by Officers Kuehl and Rogers of the police force and Prohibition Officer Roy E. Muhs.

Meyer operated a stand with hot dogs and coffee as a side line - right on the Midway at the Fair. But it was whispered about in circles believed to be interested that the coffee, while somewhat expensive, was very drinkable coffee indeed.

In fact, the percentage of "caffeine" was so great that those who took two cups went reeling away in the best of spirits. Police Officer Lodge noted this phenomenon and did a little mental addition, - he put two and two together.

Then, in company with Officers Kuehl and Muhs, he paid an official visit to the stand and examined the "coffee". It was fortunate that they came when they did. Business had been so good that only a half pint of "moonshine" was still in stock when the stand was raided according to the information filed in the commissioner's court this morning following the raid of Saturday evening. He is charged with the possession of three gallons of liquor."

> A little nip in your coffee...sold right on the fairgrounds....but he was asking to get caught. Not sure what the penalities were for 1st offences in those days.

I think Prohibition Officer Roy Muhs had a very interesting career...kind of like Elliot Ness.



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