More from Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent:

I was visiting friends in Nassau over Christmas, so  reading about the bootlegging boom that hit Nassau during the early days of prohibition brought back happy holiday memories. Okrent describes the chaos of prohibition-era Bay Street beautifully:

Boys rolled heavy barrels from the docks, dodging wooden-wheeled horse carts burdened with precarious stacks of liquor cases.  The motley collection of stables, houses, chandleries, and shanties near the waterfront had been drafted into service as warehouses.  It was not long before the steamships and the sailing vessels began arriving all day and all night, leaving mountainous accumulations of off-loaded goods on the rickety pier, hundreds upon countless hundreds of cases from each boat…the Bahamian policemen who tried to keep order on the increasingly unruly waterfront soon had to contend with a new form of traffic: the startling spectacle of island women walking from the harbour quays towards the warehouses with graceful purpose, wooden cases poised on their heads.

To give some idea of the scale of the change: in 1918, Scotch exporters had sent 914 gallons of their product to the Bahamas. Two years into prohibition, they were sending 386,000 gallons. Revenue from the new trade transformed sleepy Nassau. Prior to prohibition, the main trade had been in sponges, sisal and turtles. Drunk on revenue from the export tax, the government was able to dredge the harbor, resurface miles of roads, install a new sewage system and a 2,300 volt diesel generator. The bootleggers would socialize at the Lucerne hotel, which in July 1921 hosted a Bootleggers’ Ball:  a 36 hour, champagne-fueled party.  Bootleggers have all the fun.

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