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From Ohio History Central

Bootlegging refers to the illegal manufacture, transportation, or sale of alcohol. This practice became commonplace following the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1919. The amendment established nationwide Prohibition, making it illegal to manufacture, sell or transport "intoxicating liquors" in the United States and its territories.

Many Americans objected to the Eighteenth Amendment. Some Americans began to engage in bootlegging. In Ohio, some people who liked to drink alcoholic beverages brewed their own liquor in the privacy of their own homes. Some Ohioans brewed alcohol not only for their private consumption but to sell to secret and illegal bars known as "speakeasies." Other bootleggers smuggled alcohol from Canada into Ohio across Lake Erie. Bootleggers would transport the liquor across the lake to unwatched beaches or into communities where citizens and law enforcement officials ignored this illegal activity. Many bootleggers accumulated sizable fortunes and used some of their earnings to bribe law enforcement officials, including police officers, prosecutors, and even judges. Many Ohio cities gained a reputation for lawlessness while Prohibition remained in effect. Toledo supposedly was a safe haven for mobsters and bootleggers from Chicago, Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan. Bootleggers from Kentucky smuggled alcohol into Cincinnati, Ohio, and then shipped the liquor to other communities in the state. It was rumored that law enforcement officials in Steubenville and Youngstown, Ohio, risked their very lives if they attempted to enforce Prohibition. Bootleggers did not exist only in Ohio, as people residing in other states also engaged in similar activities. Bootlegging came to an end in 1933 with the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment by the Twenty-First Amendment.

See Also


  1. Behr, Edward. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America. New York, NY: Arcade Pub., 1996.  
  2. Clark, Norman. Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition. New York, NY: Norton, 1976.  
  3. Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York, NY: Putnam, 1973.