Before Prohibition was a day old, illegal ‘Gin Joints’ called ‘speakeasies’ sprang up in basements and back rooms across America.

Depending on part of the country, they might be carefully hidden and open only to those who knew the password, the equivalent of “Joe sent me”, or they might be operated rather openly in areas whee the police had been sufficiently bribed to look the other way. ‘Speakeasies’ welcomed women. That was a change from the bars and saloons of the past that were off-limits to women or had a back entrance for the use of working-class women.

Getting around the law turned into an elaborate game that often proved deadly.


Some ‘Speakeasies’ were built at the end of piers, where boars could unload their liquor up through a trap door directly into a bar. Others had secret rooms, rotating shelves, trap doors, fake walls and emergency disposal shafts to thwart police.

The vast majority of ‘speakeasies’ were hidden within or behind legitimate operations such as grocery stores, restaurants, tailors and even barbers…


New York’s notorious prohibition joints were often guarded by a man at the front door with a buzzer he pressed to warn people inside if the place was about to be raided.

fun facts from the roaring 20's

  • Prohibition barred making alcohol, selling it, and shipping it for the purposes of consumption. In fact, doctors could prescribe alcohol for medicinal purposes.
  • Speakeasies got their name because you had to whisper a code word or name through a locked door in order to be allowed in.
  • New York City Alone had an estimated 30,000 ‘speakeasies’
  • Some states refused to enforce Prohibition.

  • Along with creating an army of federal agents, the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act stipulated that individual states should enforce Prohibition within their own borders. Governors resented the added strain on their public coffers therefore many neglected to appropriate any money towards policing the alcohol ban.
  • Maryland never even enacted an enforcement code and eventually earned a reputation as one of the most stubbornly anti-prohibition states in the Union.

  • New York also showed great restraint towards the ban of alcohol. NYC repealed its measures in 1923 and other states grew increasingly lackadaisical as the decade wore on.
  • It was once said by Marylands senator, William Cabell Bruce in congress in the mid 20’s “National Prohibition went into legal effect upward of six years ago, but it can be truly said, that except to a highly qualified extent, it has never gone into practical effect at all”