March 25, 1929: 305 gallons of liquor poured down the drain in Duluth’s City Hall

These photos appeared in the Duluth herald March 26, 1929. (Image” Zenith City Press)

On this day in Duluth in 1929, Duluth officials dumped 305 gallons of confiscated liquor down the drain in the basement of city hall. The city estimated the retail cost of the liquor at $21,960—nearly $300,000 in today’s dollars. The city, along with the rest of the nation, was under the law of Prohibition; the liquor had been confiscated during various raids over the previous six weeks and stored at city hall until it was no longer needed as evidence. Once a case was cleared, the liquor was dumped—if the amount was relatively small. For larger caches, police waited until they had time to spend half a day pouring booze into the sewer, the result of which, the Duluth Herald joked, was “stimulating the fish in Lake Superior.” The March 1929 “dumping party” included Duluth Police Department patrolmen Victor Isaackson and Paul Strange along with sergeant Frank Lake, who was in charge of the DPD’s liquor and vice squad. Sgt. Lake declared that Duluth was drying up rapidly, thanks in part to the new Jones Act which had gone into effect earlier that month, and essentially said that anyone violating the 1919 Volstead Act, which established Prohibition, could be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned up to five years. Lake felt that the law caused many bootleggers to “suspend business rather than run risks of being caught.” Two days before the liquor dump, St. Louis County Sheriff Frank Magie’s “raiders” confiscated a 150-gallon still capable of “turning out moonshine at the rate of sixty gallons a day” along with “dozens of barrels;” they also destroyed 700 gallons of mash. Read about the history of Prohibition in Duluth here.

One Response to March 25, 1929: 305 gallons of liquor poured down the drain in Duluth’s City Hall

  1. This leads one to wonder how much of this liquor was actually saved and given or sold to other important civic leaders, unknowing to the public. Back then, not everyone, especially civic officials, supported the temperance league! If sometimes up to “half days” were spent dumping liquor down the sewers, gosh, there must have been some very large still operations going on in the Northland and Duluth. I recall my father talking about numerous still operations going on all over Southern Minnesota many years ago, being shipped thru and around by the St. Paul Creamery. A lot of people, not just bootleggers, made a lot of money on illegal liquor during those years. My hometown of Shakopee, MN. was also called “Little Reno” back then, which included numerous gambling house locations for the twin cities folks to visit and party at, out of sight and the limelight.

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