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Speakeasies in the Age of Prohibition: Background information when reading The Other Typist

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The Other Typist

A Novel

by Suzanne Rindell

The Other Typist
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  • First Published:
    May 2013, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2014, 368 pages

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Amy Reading

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Beyond the Book:
Speakeasies in the Age of Prohibition

The Drunkard's ProgressProhibition came into effect in January 1920, one year to the day after the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified. It was a victory for the Anti-Saloon League, which had campaigned since 1893 to outlaw alcohol in order protect women and children from the effects of drunken husbands and to increase productivity among workers.

But it was simultaneously a victory for the crafts of subterfuge and bribery. Prohibition was, of course, a gigantic opportunity for the underground economy, and bootleggers and gangsters took full advantage. Their payoffs to New York City officials totaled at least $60 million a year. Speakeasies ("blind pigs," "jimmies") bloomed on every street corner, each with its own way of outsmarting law enforcement. The 21 Club at West 52nd Street was said to have a complicated system of levers to tip shelves and slide bottles into the city's sewers if the feds showed up; they were raided in 1932 but no alcohol was discovered. Rum Row, an enormous fleet of old freighters ...

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