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How Congress Got Booze During Prohibition

The fact that alcohol consumption was illegal in the United States for a decade in the 20th Century didn’t stop Members of Congress from getting their libations:

While members of Congress may have championed Prohibition laws on the House floor, many of them happily broke the rules in any of the 3,000 speakeasies scattered throughout downtown Washington. And when members needed to restock their personal hooch supply, they turned to one man: George Cassiday.

During his time as a booze distributor on the Hill, Cassiday estimated that four out of five members of  Congress drank—and many of them availed themselves of Cassiday’s services. Congress even gave Cassiday his own storeroom in the basement of the Cannon office building.

Cassiday was eventually arrested twice, both times going into congressional offices with booze in tow. “It was hardly a well-kept secret,” said Garrett Peck, the author of Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t. After one of his arrests, a press agent pointed out Cassiday as “the man over there in the green hat,” and thus his moniker (and the District’s new brand of gin) was christened.

Before the 1930 midterm elections, Cassiday wrote a series of five front-page articles for The Washington Post about his former clientele. Though he didn’t name names, he gave plenty of colorful detail. One senator Cassiday supplied would hide his liquor on top of a bookshelf, next to the Congressional Record.

“He never mentioned liquor to me, but occasionally he would say he could use some ‘new reading matter,’ ” Cassiday wrote. “This customer always referred to me as his ‘librarian.’ “

Honestly, I’m not sure how anyone could read the Congressional Record without a strong drink nearby.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    Congress, hypocrites in every century.

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  2. roger says:

    “…alcohol consumption was illegal in the United States for a decade in the 20th Century…”

    The 18th amendment and Volstead Act banned the making, transportation and selling of alcohol, not consumption. Of course, this was at the federal level. No idea what was done at the state and territorial level.

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