Prohibition formally began just after the stroke of midnight on the morning of 17 January 1920, when the proscriptions of the Volstead Act became effective. By the summer of 1921, newspapers had begun to report mysterious, unlighted vessels hovering off the coast. These sightings, of course, heralded the formation of “rum row.”
Rum row consisted of several clusters of vessels anchored off population centers such as New York, Boston, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. There the vessels would wait in safety, outside U.S. waters, for contact boats from shore to run out and purchase several hundred cases of alcohol at a time. It was a great setup, with all the legal risk on the boats bringing the liquor into the United States.
“An Act to Regulate the Collection of Duties on Imports and Tonnage, 5 Cong. Sess. III, Ch. 22” (March 1799), in The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. I, ed. Richard Peters (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850), 627.
Annual Report of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1922 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office 1922).
“Arrests Ordered in Seizure of Schooner,” New York Evening Post, 4 August 1921.
“Boatmen Arrested as Rum Carriers,” The New York Times, 10 August 1921.
“Florida Waters Said Infested with Craft,” The Athens [GA] Banner-Herald (24 July 1921.
Roy A. Haynes, prohibition commissioner, Prohibition Inside Out (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1923).
Logs of the USCGC Seneca, 27 July–2 August 1921, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC.
“Mystery of Booze Ship Solved, She’s the Marshall; Runs Booze Along Coast,” The Evening World (New York), 27 July 1921.
“Rum Ship Seized Under Act of 1799,” The New York Times, 14 August 1921.
“Schooner Used for Floating Bar off Atlantic City,” Tarrytown [NY] Daily News, 27 July 1921.
“Smugglers Wax Bold Off the Florida Coast,” The Daily Times-Enterprise (Thomasville, GA), 10 April 1922.
U.S. v. 1,250 Cases of Intoxicating Liquor, The Henry L. Marshall, 286 F, 260 (1922).
U.S. v. 1,250 Cases of Intoxicating Liquor, The Henry L. Marshall, Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 19 June 1923, in “American Maritime Cases” vol. 1 (Baltimore: Niles and Knauth, 1923).
Frederick F. Van de Water, The Real McCoy (Mystic, CT: Flat Hammock Press, 2007).