What does a self-described history buff do when she retires? She writes a book detailing the lives of bootleggers and beer brewers during prohibition, of course.
Silver Maple resident Anne Funderburg, a self-described history buff, has written a new book about bootleggers and beer brewers. Her affinity for history, in particular prohibition-era history, is rooted in her love of old silent movies, many made to poke fun at the laws of the day.
“They glamorized drinking, speakeasies and bootleggers,” she said. “I wondered why the country had such an unpopular law and why it wasn’t enforced.”
This week, she offered a sneak peek at what she learned while writing “Bootleggers and Beer Barons of the Prohibition Era.”
Q It’s hard to believe that stories from the prohibition era weren’t already tapped out. Why write a book on the subject now?
A The book is the result of years of in-depth research, but I didn’t write it for scholars. I wrote for the average reader who wants to know more about prohibition.
The Volstead law set off a crime wave unparalleled before or since the Great Drought. I tell true stories of the colorful, daring men and women who smuggled liquor to defy a law they hated. They made a lot of money, but their job was a risky one. They dodged bullets from the guns of lawmen, hijackers, and rival gangs. When I read about the illegal liquor traffic in 1920s newspapers and magazines, I found a great deal of humor and irony as well as lawlessness, violence, and corruption. I tried to capture the frenetic flavor of the era by telling the true stories of Al Capone, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, the Triple X, the Purple Gang, the Millionaire Newsboy, the Capitol Hill Bootlegger, and others.
Q You mention stories of men…and women. What did you uncover about female bootleggers?
A Most female bootleggers can be described as desperate mothers or obedient wives. The desperate mothers were women who needed a job to support their children. Most were single moms or were married to a sick, unemployed man. Women had few employment opportunities, and the illegal liquor traffic offered a chance to make big money.
An obedient wife assisted her husband in bootlegging. Some dutiful wives claimed that their husbands had forced them to break the law. This defense is unlikely to work today, but women were expected to obey their husbands in the 1920s.
Q What’s your favorite story from the book?
A The story of George Cassiday, the Capitol Hill Bootlegger. He sold moonshine and aged whiskey to congressmen in the House Office Building, taking orders and delivering them to the congressmen’s offices. A congressman who wanted faster service arranged for Cassiday to keep his liquor inventory in a storeroom in the House Office Building. He carried on his business for about five years before he was arrested, convicted, and served twenty days in jail. After serving his time, he moved his liquor inventory to the stationery room in the same building and filled orders from there.
He spent so much time in congress that he became a political junkie. He went on the campaign trail with a senator from the Midwest, attending ward meetings and making speeches at rallies. In February 1930, the Hoover administration decided to crackdown on bootleggers in Washington, DC. Cassiday was arrested, indicted, and sentenced to a short jail term but he never spent a night in the jail. Each morning he went to the jail, spent a few hours there, and went home in time for dinner.