Nassau – Wall Street of Illegal Booze

As the Bahamian men and women worked, a chant rose into the balmy air: Ole rum he go in de schooner at night, Boss man he campin’ down, Mammy’s boy he countin’ gold. All right. All right.

Illegal booze warehoused in Nassau.

H. De Winton Wigley, a British reporter who called himself the “Daily News Secret Service Agent on the American Coast,” spent much time undercover, scouting the streets of Nassau to deliver to his readers the “inside scoop” on rum running. On his journeys, he clandestinely rubbed shoulders with daring  smugglers, import representatives and those involved in the sordid business of rum running. Of Nassau, Wigley wrote:

I was hardly surprised to learn that my companion at lunch was a millionaire. This was an island of millionaires. On Bay Street, the main thoroughfare of Nassau, stand the rows of crazy old liquor stores which have brought rapid fortune to the liquor runners and bootleggers. These queer temples of fortune, built of wood, unpainted and dilapidated, are the chief feature of the capital, and have given the street the nickname “Booze Avenue.”

   Some of your big distilleries have their agents over here, and these are private firms in England who are working through Nassau offices. Sometimes the London bosses are only middlemen acting between the agents on the spot and the real bosses. The fellows in Nassau don’t know much about each other’s business . . .

As for Nassau itself, it is estimated that at times there is as much as ten million dollars’ worth of whisky stored in those rickety old liquor shanties on Bay Street. And still the stuff pours in and pours out, and the bank balances grow and grow . . .

By the mid 1920s the quiet and subdued atmosphere of pre-prohibition Nassau gave way to the raucous sounds of thugs as northern syndicates thoroughly entrenched themselves in the prohibition business.

For more information on how South Florida played a major role in running illegal booze into the U.S., read Sally J. Ling’s book Run the Rum In: South Florida during Prohibition.

Order today!  Sally J. Ling’s newest book The Cloak, a biblical mystery, featuring Shea Baker. Learn more.

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