Prohibition Era Political Cartoon: Corruption of Chicago Politicians

April 20, 2009 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

Prohibition Era Political Cartoon commenting on the Corruption of Chicago Politicians

Prohibition Era Political Cartoon commenting on the Corruption of Chicago Politicians


The goal of Prohibition was to eliminate, or reduce alcohol consumption to only for medicinal purposes.  However, a significant rise in liquor consumption was associated with the on-set of Prohibition.  The increase was likely caused by the proliferation of illegal (“bootlegged”) alcohol.

Bootlegging, interestingly, began before Prohibition, and continued after as a means of bypassing high taxes on alcohol. Without tax, bootleg liquor was sold much cheaper than legal alcohol. By 1930, bootlegging was much more efficiently organized, thanks to criminals who turned the operations into a full-fledged illicit industry. By that year, it was estimated that 10,000 speakeasies were operating. [1] 

In Chicago, hundreds of bars that were supposed to close simply stayed open after Prohibition became law. There were innumerable “blind pigs,” bars and saloons with blank fronts (unmarked with any indication of their function), through which one entered a side door, often fitted with a peep hole.[2]  

A gentleman’s magazine at the time featured an article on bootlegging, and had this to say, “The sale of dissipation is not only a great business; it is among the few greatest businesses of Chicago. The leading branch of it … is the sale of alcoholic liquor…. The liquor interests are vastly more extended in Chicago that any other [city]. There are 7,300 licensed liquor sellers in Chicago, and in addition about a thousand places where liquor is sold illegally. The only business which approaches it in number of establishments … is the grocery trade, which has about 5,200. The city spends at least half as much for what it drinks as for what it eats…”.[3]

[1] Allsop, Kenneth.  The Bootleggers and Their Era.  Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1961. p. 33.

[2] Allsop, p. 28.

[3] Turner, George Kibbe, “The City of Chicago, A Study of the Great Immoralities.”  McClure’s Magazine 28 (April 1907) 576-79.

Entry filed under: Temperance/Prohibition. Tags: , , , , .

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