Before I started watching the Wire, I didn’t really knew much about Baltimore. I’ve visited it a few times since watching- it’s a great city. And it seems as though it deserved its edgy reputation long before the Wire hit our screens. From Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent, comes this explanation of why Baltimore was one of the four wettest cities during Prohibition:

Baltimore had all the ingredients. It was a port city, with a large Catholic population, no state enforcement law, a semiofficial bootlegger operating inside the State House in Annapolis, and a famously corrupt police department that also happened to be a model of collective efficiency: speakeasy operators who made regular payments to a “fund for disabled policemen” were excused from any court proceedings. Baltimore also had H.L.Mencken leading the wet cheers in his column in the Sun and spreading the word to his prominent friends. To F.Scott Fitzgerald, who was living in Paris at the time, Mencken wrote, “Baltimore is now knee-deep in excellent beer. I begin to believe in prayer.” To Bishop James Cannon, with whom he had also struck up an unlikely friendship, Mencken explained that it wasn’t true that a stranger could walk off the street into a bar anywhere in Baltimore and be served instantly. “You had to be introduced,” Mencken said, “by a judge, a policeman, or some other reputable person.”

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