Prohibition, Regulation, the Philadelphia Police, and the Saloon Keepers Associations

Ellen C. Leichtman, Eastern Kentucky University

Studies have shown that police corruption tends to be concentrated in the breaking of the sumptuary laws. Among those activities in the 1920s was selling bootleg liquor. Police, rather than prhibiting the selling of alcohol, often regulated it through extortion.

This paper shows how the Philadelphia beat copy in the 1920s, rather than closing neighborhood saloons, extored money from them. This extortion operated on two levels: The first level was district wide under the direction of the district's police captain. The second level one was city wide, involving the famous Unit No. 1, the special force dedicated to uncovering the making, shipping, and selling of liquor. The result of the police graft was the banding together of saloon keepers, in order to keep the protection payments under control and on a "sound business basis." More than one hundred and fifty saloon keepers were involved in the various associations.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006