Little Italy and Prohibition

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Intersection today and during Prohibition

The intersection of Kenmare and Mulberry has a Prohibition history. A  parking garage on the corner is probably the same as the one used by  Marinelli Brothers’ Trucking Garage. There Joe Masseria, head of the Unione Sicilione  met with top “soldiers” in the 1920s.  He also met them in Celano’s. Is this  in the same restaurant  on the southwest corner now called Toby’s?

According to a footnote in Lacey’s biography of Meyer Lansky, Charles “Lucky” Luciano had his headquarters in an office in Marinelli’s Trucking Company.

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On still another corner,  was a speakeasy known as the Sawdust Inn. It was located below a drugstore. Markey and Bull  in  their book,  That’s New York,  describe being in this speakeasy during a police raid.  Only one  corner building today has a basement entrance.  This building also has a small store on the street level. The store could have been a drugstore in the 1920s?

Medicinal Liquor in Prohibition

Drugstores were common places to buy liquor during Prohibition. You had to have  a legitimate medicinal prescription but even a fake one might work. Dorothy Parker said she got most of her gin during Prohibition at the drugstore in her neighborhood. The Stork Club’s founder began his career as a pharmacist with easy access to “medicinal” liquor.

Twelve thousand drugstores in New York City could stock medicinal liquor during Prohibition. Five thousand doctors in the city could write prescriptions for liquor.The source for these statistics is  U.S. Attorney Emory Buckner’s testimony to Congress in April 1926. He said there were too many drugstores to be policed for violations,  given the small size of the federal Prohibition Bureau.

[ For more, see  Smugglers, Bootleggers and Scofflaws; Prohibition and New York City (SUNY Press 2013)The book is a  scholarly narrative with photographs, extensive notes,  bibliography, index, and primary documents, including excerpts from Buckner’s testimony. It is less than 200 pages. ]

 

 

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