Image: Mike Schmid
Prohibition went into effect on Jan. 1, 1920. With no means to acquire alcohol legally, bootleggers went into action and speakeasies flourished. When authorities blocked the import of alcohol from Canada, bootleggers turned to another source: industrial alcohol meant for paints, solvents, fuels, and medical supplies.
Image: Elgin County Archives: St. Thomas Police officers with confiscated bottles of liquor, likely taken from a bootlegger. This picture was likely taken in the basement of the St. Thomas City Hall, ca. 1926.
By 1925, perhaps 60 million gallons of industrial alcohol were stolen annually, renatured to a drinkable form, and sold illegally. The federal government decided to put a stop to it by forcing manufactures to add "kerosene and brucine (a plant alkaloid closely related to strychnine), gasoline, benzene, cadmium, iodine, zinc, mercury salts, nicotine, either, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine, and acetone." Another deadly ingredient was methyl alcohol in a large amount--"up to 10 per cent of the total product".)
After many people came to the ER and died, a New York medical examiner had his toxicologist examine samples of the illegal alcohol, which revealed the above list of poisons. In 1926, twelve hundred people got sick from the poisoned alcohol and 400 died in New York City alone. The next year 700 died in NYC. By the time prohibition ended in 1933, an estimated 10,000 people were killed across the nation.
Learn more from my source: Slate, The Chemist's War: The Little Told Story Of How The US Government Poisoned Alcohol During Prohibition With Deadly Consequences by Deborah Blum.
So if the bartender asks, "What's you poison?" you should reply, "What's yours, buddy? What's yours?"
Anyone remember when one of the characters in Water For Elephants dies of alcohol poisoning?
In support of Joylene Butler, who broke a hip right before her book release, let me share this:
Available today for the first time in eBook form -
By Joylene Nowell Butler
$4.99 eBook ISBN 9781939844385
An IPPY Silver Medalist!
To the Breaking Point...
When Brendell Meshango resigns from her university professor position and retreats to her isolated cabin to repair her psyche, she is confronted by a masked intruder. His racial comments lead her to believe she is the solitary victim of a hate crime.
However, is all as it appears? After two bizarre days, the intruder mysteriously disappears but continues to play mind games with her. Taught by her mother to distrust the mainstream-based power structures, and with her stalker possibly linked to a high level of government, Brendell conceals the incident from the police. But will her silence keep her safe?
Then her beloved daughter, Zoë, is threatened and Brendell takes matters into her own hands. To save Zoë, Brendell searches for the stalker and confronts not just a depraved madman but her own fears and prejudices.
“Joylene Nowell Butler gets straight to the story, taking you from one happening to the next and keeps you turning the page.” - Martha A. Cheves, author
“A psychological thriller filled with suspense, action and drama...” - John Bell, 93.1 CFIS-FM: Prince George, BC
“Riveting and beautifully written. You won't be able to set it down.” Judith S. Avila, author
Joylene, Métis, is the author of Dead Witness, Broken But Not Dead, and Break Time. She and her husband and their two cats reside in Canada for the summers and Nayarit for the winters. They believe life should be an adventure.