Prohibition in Portland and Oregon


History 469

Washington State UniversityVancouver

Vancouver, Washington





by Ryan LaMar






4 May 2005











































Front cover cartoon: The Oregonian (Portland), 9 December 1928.


United States prohibition history has within it many facets continually revisited by historians and social scientists.  Two of the most common themes investigated are social impact and crime, and the one historical text most referenced by other social and historical studies, Herbert Asbury’s The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition, investigates both.  Asbury’s book provides background information into the origins of the temperance and prohibition movements through the “dry years” of national prohibition and the factors that led to its repeal, and it investigates the corruption and controversies of the era.  It serves as an excellent survey of America’s failed experiment, and because most scholarly texts reference this source, it suffices as the master text of the period.[1]  Geoffrey Perrett’s American in the Twenties: A History is another informative historical reference that places prohibition in perspective with the political and social climate of the 1920s.  With one chapter specifically devoted to prohibition, it also serves as a brief overview.[2]

There are several references that narrow the topic down to the Pacific Northwest region.  The definitive text of the area is Norman H. Clark’s The Dry Years: Prohibition and Social Change in Washington.  Although it focuses on the state of Washington, it does so because Seattle was the bootlegging capital of the Pacific Northwest.  Where applicable, it does branch out into Washington’s neighbors, giving relevant histories that tie British Columbia, Oregon, and Idaho to Washington’s history.  This is a good start in understanding how differently the west coast experienced national prohibition, as opposed to the east coast. 

Several sources narrow prohibition to Oregon and Portland, specifically, but none serve as a definitive history of Oregon like Clark’s text does for Washington.  Jewel Lansing’s Portland: People, Politics, and Power, 1851-2001 and E. Kimbark MacColl’s The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1915 to 1950 both offer a survey of Portland history with references to the state as a whole, but they cover very little prohibition history.  Three references are available that do.  John Edwards Caswell’s master’s thesis, “The Prohibition Movement in Oregon to the Adoption of Statewide Prohibition in 1914” reveals the origination of prohibition and temperance in the state.  The other two references specifically cover Portland and provide a sizeable amount of information regarding law enforcement activities.  Kenneth D. Rose’s “The Labbe Affair and Prohibition Enforcement in Portland” provides insight into Portland’s troubled history in enforcing prohibition, and Doug Reed’s “The Violation of Prohibition Laws in the Pacific Northwest: A study in Organized Crime, Enforcement, and Political Corruption” adds information not included in Rose’s thesis, in addition to tying Portland to the rest of the Pacific Northwest.

Rose’s thesis is the most informative reference covering law enforcement in Portland during the prohibition years, but he narrowly focuses on illegal search warrants.  Other elements of prohibition enforcement in Portland and Oregon are inadequately covered or not covered at all, such as comparisons to the rest of nation to give the city and state’s history a perspective to the nation as a whole, criminal methods for violating the laws, corruptions of the laws other than illegal search warrants, and Portland’s unfairness in applying the laws based on socioeconomic and native status.  In this thesis, these topics are covered.

Oregon and its most populous city, Portland, are historically touted as one of prohibition’s few success stories.  This, however, is not entirely true.  Though Portland had less prohibition-related arrests and court cases per capita than most of the rest of the nation, these numbers came not from fewer law violations, but from a lack of aggressive enforcement.  This was due to two factors: a shortage of appropriate funds and equipment to combat incessant prohibition violations, and an absence of integrity in enforcing these laws.  Politicians, law enforcement authorities, and social elites placed themselves above prohibition while the laws were discriminately enforced against the rest of the populace, especially immigrants and the working class—the very people that frequented the saloons that spawned the temperance and prohibition movement to begin with.

            As Geoffrey Perrett aptly put it, prohibition came out of the saloon, which itself came out of the frontier.  As the railroad industry developed the frontier, saloons followed in the path of the rails.  In many booming towns, there existed blocks where saloons outnumbered all other businesses combined.[3] This resulted in a growing concern for the physical and spiritual health of those who frequented the saloon and their families.

            As early as 1785, with the publishing of Dr. Benjamin Rush’s essay critical of the physiological effects of alcohol, medical professionals began to shy away from prescribing alcohol as a medicine.[4]  By 1915, solid scientific evidence that proved the malignant effects of alcohol was widely spread—alcohol is a depressant, it constricts blood vessels (and thus, does not warm the body despite a feeling of warmth), it impairs mental and physiological faculties, lowers resistance to disease, and it is harmful to the kidneys and liver.[5]  Health officials also discovered that intoxicated men were more likely to frequent prostitutes and contract and spread venereal diseases.[6] As a result of these findings, neurologists and psychologists classified alcohol as a poison.[7]  Realizing the medical malignancy of alcohol, the American Medical Association, in 1918, declared its opposition to alcohol consumption and made it known that it would “welcome national prohibition.”[8]

            To the lay community, founders of the temperance movement, medical testimony was just one more of a litany of reasons why mankind needed to be saved from “demon rum.”  Employers realized that alcohol made workers inefficient and dangerous, and union leaders noticed that workers would “escape” through alcohol instead of improving their living conditions through collective organizing.[9]  These medical and social factors led Justin Edwards of the American Temperance Society to make temperance a religious movement, and by the 1830s, he gained the uniform support of the Protestant churches.[10] 

With a united religious and secular front, the temperance movement grew quickly in Oregon.  While still a territory in 1844, the legislature passed a law forbidding the sale of “ardent sprits.”[11]  Even though Oregon repealed the law two years later, it did not deter the temperance movement in the state.  By 1873, a State Temperance Union formed to, once again, make legislative gains, while praying women concentrated on the social arena by marching against saloons in Portland.[12]  It was common not only to see women loitering outside saloons, praying for patrons’ souls, but also women inside observing the patrons and taking notes on their drinking habits and behaviors.

Almost forty years later, in 1912, Oregon enfranchised its women.[13] It was these newly enfranchised voters that played a pivotal role in the temperance movement during the progressive era.  Only two years after being enfranchised, and only four years after voters narrowly voted down a state prohibition referendum,[14] women overwhelmingly supported a state prohibition ballot measure, voting three to one in favor[15]—the highest ratio of twenty-five ballot measures, including abolition of the death penalty and the establishment of an eight-hour workday.[16]

The 1914 Oregon prohibition law was not a “bone-dry” law.[17]  It focused more on the suppliers of alcohol, such as distilleries, wineries, breweries, and saloons, and the law allowed for home consumption and even small amounts of liquor importation.[18]  The Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League deemed this law to be too lenient, and they made additional efforts to push Oregon towards the bone-dry column.  In 1915, a bone-dry referendum came up for vote, and it narrowly passed, fifty-one to forty-nine,[19] with women voting in favor two to one[20] and Multnomah County soundly rejecting the measure.[21]  On January 1, 1916, Oregon established itself as one of the nation’s prohibition pioneers when the state officially went bone-dry.  Portland’s Chief of Police, John Clark, realizing the profoundness of the law, said, “While prohibition has a tendency to decrease certain types of crime, we now have this law to enforce, which requires careful attention on the part of police officers.”[22]

Though Oregon was bone-dry, its neighbors were not.  Opportunism through interstate trade by wet-state entrepreneurs and Oregon’s dry customers challenged the feasibility and constitutionality of the state’s law until the Supreme Court intervened.  On January 8, 1917, the Court ruled that non-importation laws were constitutionally valid under Congress’ Web-Kenyon Act of 1913, which granted states interstate commerce police powers.[23]  Congress further protected dry states’ interests with an amendment to the Post Office Appropriations Bill of 1917, forbidding interstate commerce of alcohol into dry states.[24]  At this point, prohibition officially became national business, and with the outbreak of World War I, the national government took an active role with its own prohibition legislation.

To conserve critical resources during the war, Congress passed the Lever Act which prohibited the use of grain for brewing and distilling,[25] and it later topped this with the Wartime Prohibition Act of 1918, prohibiting the brewing of wine and beer on top of a previous prohibition act that forbidding the brewing of spirits.[26]  With prohibition already enforced at the national level as a wartime emergency and by thirty-three states out of their own volition, the Eighteenth Amendment had little difficulty being officially ratified on January 16, 1919.

One year after ratification, the Eighteenth Amendment became national law.  For bone-dry states like Oregon, this law did not result in any significant social, political, or economic changes to the status quo.  In 1916, Oregon’s first year bone-dry, Portland Municipal Judge Arthur Langguth exclaimed,

There has been a very marked decrease in the number of arrests made by the police in the number of drunks; there is less thieving in the city; a remarkable decrease in the arrests for prostitution, and the number of arrests made for violation for traffic ordinances is far below what it was a year ago.  The cases of arrests for driving an automobile while drunk, are very rare as compared with the number in former years… On the whole, the moral conditions and conditions generally in the matter of violations of city ordinances and state laws, are very much to be preferred as against conditions as they were prior to the closing of saloons.[27]


            Police and municipal records showed astounding decreases in crime the first year of Oregon’s state-imposed prohibition.  Drunkenness arrests in Oregon in 1916 were 11,719, down from 20,417 the year before—a decrease of 42.6 percent.[28]  Portland fared even better:  from January 1st to September 1st in 1915, there were 6,498 drunkenness arrests, and the same period of time the following year produced 1,802 drunkenness arrests—a decrease of 72.3 percent.[29]  Judge Langguth claimed there was a 50 percent decrease in all court cases since Oregon went bone-dry.[30]  These changes came partially from the mass exodus of “underworld characters,” according to Portland Police Lieutenant Harms, who reported that in the first year “25 notorious characters had left town, and more are going all the time.”[31]  A 1916 survey of 180 former saloon keepers in Portland showed that dozens of them moved out of the state to stay in the business.[32]  With such impressive numbers, it was no wonder that Mayor H.R. Albee confidently boasted that “social evil” “cannot flourish without the assistance of liquor.”[33]  Prohibition in Portland and the rest of the state was off to a good start.

            When the nation attempted to follow suit, it ran into some problems early on.  The vagueness in the Eighteenth Amendment’s language sparked two controversies: debate over what is an “intoxicating” liquor, and if the prohibition of the sale of such liquors equated to a prohibition against the purchase of the same.  The Volstead Act answered the first issue.  Any beverage with an alcohol content greater than 0.5 percent by volume was defined as “intoxicating” under Congress’s enforcement statute.  However, many legislators considered this to be too extreme.  They felt a 3.2 percent limit was more reasonable, and so as to achieve a compromise, the Volstead Act authorized the personal production of consumable alcohol for the home without the 0.5 percent alcohol limit—but still left room for limiting alcohol abuse by allowing juries to decide on a case-by-case basis if a homemade beverage was intoxicating or not.[34]

            The logical tie that illicit sales of alcohol, by default, made purchases of the same unlawful was denied in the Volstead Act.  In the hopes of making enforcement against the suppliers easier, the act allowed for the purchase of alcohol so as to induce buyers to give testimony against the suppliers caught in the act of selling.[35]  This clause was challenged in the Supreme Court in 1930, in the case of U.S. v. James E. Farrar, but the Court upheld it as lawful.[36] 

            The Volstead Act made it clear that the intent of the 18th Amendment was not to prohibit the consumption of alcohol, but merely to curb consumption excesses by eradicating the saloon and the rest of the liquor industry.[37]  The national intent was much in the vein of Oregon’s intent in its own law in 1916.  Like Oregon’s law, the Volstead Act allowed for the production of alcohol for non-intoxicating purposes, such as for medicine, religious purposes, and general industrial usage.[38]  And, not surprisingly, these loopholes led to the same abuses on the national level that Oregon had started to experience shortly after enacting its own laws in 1916.

            It did not take long for alcohol to skyrocket as one of the top prescription medicines in the nation.  In 1921, doctors prescribed 8 million gallons of alcohol—a 1,000 percent increase from pre-prohibition numbers.[39]  In 1916, Portland saw a similar increase: drug stores went from selling 334 prescription bottles of ethyl alcohol in January to 4,740 bottles in September,[40] with one drug store leading the pack with a 1,040 percent increase in sales from fifty-four bottles to 1,102 bottles in the same period of time.[41]  Not all of these prescriptions were legitimate.  Many doctors’ orders were forged or obtained through bribery.[42]  An Oregon newspaper deduced that the state’s drunkenness arrests would have been even less during its first year of prohibition if not for drug store alcohol sales.[43]

The legal production of wine added to this mess.  More wineries existed than were needed to make legal, sacramental wine[44] or to produce vinegar.[45]  Many of these institutions could not have stayed profitable if not for illegal sales on the side, and this was especially the case with breweries.  Only 164 of the 1,392 pre-prohibition breweries in the nation were still in business after the nation repealed prohibition.[46]  Larger breweries stayed afloat by making “near beer,”[47] a process by which real beer is made and the alcohol is extracted until there is only 0.5 percent or less left.[48]  They then destroyed the extracted alcohol or sold it for industrial or medicinal use, though, often a brewery would sell the alcohol on the side along with the near beer so that drinkers could re-insert the alcohol and make what was known as “needled beer.” [49]

Because lackluster sales limited the near beer market, breweries branched out into other ventures.  Anheuser-Busch brewed a variety of non-alcoholic drinks called Bevo, Kicko, Buschtee, and Cafo.[50]  Likewise, Portland’s Weinhard’s Brewery created its own non-alcoholic beverages: a “beery” drink called Luxo, a raspberry drink named R-Porter,[51] and two nectar drinks—Golden Nectar and Amber Nectar.[52]  Weinhard’s Brewery further branched out by acquiring soda contracts for bottling and supplies.[53]  Though Portland Mayor H.R. Albee claimed that the Weinhard’s Brewery was “running at top notch” having retrofitted the brewery for non-alcoholic beverage production,[54] the profit margin was not enough.  Weinhard’s took advantage of the fact that the Volstead Act did not forbid the sale of alcoholic beverage raw ingredients by selling fermentable syrups.[55]  Anheuser-Busch acted less discreetly—the St. Louis brewery sold Budweiser Barley Malt Syrup and Budweiser yeast.[56]  Grocery stores, hardware outlets, and pharmacies in Portland and throughout the nation also exploited the Volstead Act loophole by selling raw ingredients and the tools necessary to make alcohol in the home.

Homebrewing was the most common and cheapest method of acquiring alcohol.  It also proved to be a bane to the Portland police department.  The Oregonian editorialized that because of homebrewing, “prohibition enforcement stops short of impracticable and impossible.”[57]  Fourth Amendment privacy rights and the lawful production of personal consumption quantities of alcohol under the Volstead Act made it easy to subvert prohibition laws.  Even if a patrolman could smell the aroma of mash brewing, it was not enough cause for a search warrant. 

Oregon Governor Walter Pierce hoped to reduce such limitations to police powers as he called for aggressive enforcement of prohibition laws.  In an annual banquet of the District Attorney’s Association of Oregon, he argued that “time has modified the old adage that every man’s home is his castle and sanctuary,”[58] and he suggested that Oregonians should welcome prohibition agents to inspect their homes at will.[59]  The federal prohibition director, J.A. Linville, rebutted, saying that “a man’s home is his castle and we don’t deviate from the constitution in that regard in any manner.”[60]  Portland Chief of Police Leon V. Jenkins re-iterated the federal position, saying, “We have no right to invade [a man’s] house without a search warrant.  We have to follow the law.”[61]

Despite Chief Jenkins’ rhetoric favoring privacy rights, Portland police and state prohibition agents, by their actions, seemed to favor Governor Pierce’s stance for a more vigorous enforcement of prohibition.   The Oregonian reported on March 25, 1925 that ninety-five illegal raids on homes had been conducted since February.[62]  This was nothing new: illegal raids were a hot topic in the Portland media for over a year already.  On January 5, 1924, The Oregonian reported that “evidence of wholesale and indiscriminate issuance of search warrants by local courts came to light… when attaches of the district court revealed the record of warrants issued to state prohibition agents.”  Under oath to the court and without any concrete evidence, agents obtained search warrants for fifteen homes they claimed were hiding illicit liquor.  However, after conducting their searches, agents found alcohol in only two homes.  Additionally, The Oregonian reported that agents made dubious claims for warrants on fictitious persons at fictitious addresses, and the court freely granted the warrants solely on the word of the agents.  One such address proved to be a vacant, snow-swept lot, and another, if it had existed, would have been found “in the center of the Willamette river [sic].”[63] 

Part of the exuberance by authorities to raid homes came as a result of the abuse of home privacy rights.  Families often created alcohol in their own homes to supplement their income, either as an independent small business or under contract to larger bootleggers.[64]  Other families used their homes as storage facilities.  A year before media exposure of the search-warrant debacles, Portland police raided the home of Walter E. Brown and found 108 cases of liquor valued at $13,000.[65]

Additionally, speakeasies took advantage of home privacy laws, masquerading themselves as legally-protected homes by outfitting a back room with a bed, clothes, and other personal effects, including signs that read, “home.”  When a customer visited, the proprietor would go in the back to his “home” where he stored the alcohol, and then return with the liquor of choice and serve it at the bar.[66]  Though selling alcohol out in the open at the bar created some risk for the patron and proprietor, this method still reduced the overall risk as compared to a speakeasy without a “home.”  If law enforcement authorities chanced upon a prohibition violation in the bar, they still would have to obtain a search warrant to enter the “home” area, leaving the proprietor enough time to remove the evidence before agents could procure a search warrant.

Not surprisingly, many saloonkeepers retrofitted their establishments to related businesses after prohibition.  A survey of 180 former saloonkeepers revealed that eighty-eight re-established their saloons as pool rooms, soda fountains, and restaurants.[67]  As public businesses that served beverages to their customers, it was easy for them to subvert prohibition laws.  In fact, prohibition laws were so often “frequently and flagrantly violated”[68] by these establishments that law enforcement authorities resorted to tougher measures.  At first, Portland Mayor George Baker warned businesses that the city would revoke their licenses if they continued to violate prohibition laws,[69] and when that did not deter violations, law enforcement resorted to “padlocking”—closing down establishments under chain and lock for a year.[70]  Taking it up a notch, the Portland vice department formed a “‘sledgehammer squad’ for the purpose of smashing known bootlegging places which could not be stopped by ordinary methods.”[71]  Fifteen times, police raided a former saloon retrofitted into a soda fountain before sending in the “sledgehammer squad.”  The squad left the place “a complete wreck; bar turned over and demolished, secret hiding places ripped open, barred doors battered down and all visible aids to the bootleggers destroyed.”[72]

While enforcement tactics like the “sledgehammer squad” and padlocking establishments violating liquor laws seemed to effectively control liquor supply in Portland, in reality, they did not.  Arrest dockets and court records give a false indicator of prohibition successes in Portland.  Comparisons of different national surveys, regarding drunkenness arrests, show that Portland was not in tune with the troubles of the nation as a whole.  In 1917, before national prohibition, law enforcement agencies in the nation registered approximately 170 arrests per ten thousand persons,[73] while Portland, in its second year of state prohibition, registered forty-eight per ten thousand.[74]  In 1927, the nation was at almost pre-prohibition numbers with 140 to 150 drunkenness arrests per ten thousand,[75] yet Portland remained stable with 101 per ten thousand—which was roughly the same number per ten thousand it had throughout the 1920s.  These numbers suggest that law enforcement in the nation as a whole was losing ground on eradicating “the liquor problem” and returning to pre-prohibition drunkenness arrest numbers, while Portland, though it, too, had difficulties eliminating its liquor problem, seemed to have the liquor issue under some amount of control.

            Court records also give the false indication of prohibition enforcement success in Portland in comparison to the nation.  From 1922 to 1929, 51.7 percent to 66.2 percent of all criminal cases in the nation involved violations of prohibition laws,[76] overwhelming the court system.[77]  Paling in comparison, a representative year in Portland, 1920, shows that drunkenness and prohibition violation cases made up 18.6 percent of all court cases in Multnomah County, and at its worst point from 1916 to 1929, Portland drunkenness and prohibition violation cases probably never exceeded 30 percent of total court cases.[78]  Portland Municipal Judge Arthur Langguth claimed that although prohibition “greatly increased the number of jury trials,”[79] it brought on a 50 percent reduction in all kinds of court cases.[80]

            Less arrests per capita and less court cases meant that Portland did not experience overcrowded prisons and jails.  By 1924, the federal prison population had doubled,[81] and by 1930, more than a third of the space reserved for long-term prison sentences were holding prohibition violators.  In fact, by 1931, more prisoners were serving long-term sentences for prohibition violations than all other long-term sentences combined in 1921.[82]  Overcrowding was not a problem for Portland or the rest of the state, and as Portland arrest dockets show, the precincts always had room to hold suspects caught by federal and state agents.

By the numbers, Portland law enforcement seemed to be doing well enforcing prohibition laws.  But, these numbers do not reveal the whole scope of how problematic enforcement was.  Portland’s arrest records and court cases include habitual offenders.  While states like Michigan doled out harsh sentences to prevent repeated crimes, such as sentencing criminals to a life imprisonment with hard labor for four felony convictions,[83] Portland enabled crime by not enforcing state laws of harsher punishments for repeat offenders[84] and only imposing light sentences and fines.  In 1923, liquor possession fines ranged from $5 to $100,[85] yet failure to give the right of way while driving a vehicle netted W.H. Penny a $25 fine in the case of City of Portland v. W.H. Penny.[86]  When liquor possession often netted a lesser fine (and no jail sentence) than a traffic violation, it amounted to roughly the equivalent of a slap on the wrist and did little to deter repeat violations.  Although court cases involving selling or transporting illicit liquor in 1924 ranged from $150 to $500, the profit margin for selling alcohol and the few and brief jail sentences[87] made it a worthwhile risk for many bootleggers.  The Oregonian reported that the “big profits of the business” attracted many violators, and they often were back in business after paying fines or serving jail sentences.[88]

Roy Olmstead was one such bootlegger who believed the payoff made the risk worth it.  Although his famous bootleg empire mostly serviced the greater Seattle area, he likely was involved with importing alcohol into Portland,[89] which was not very difficult.  Despite the fact that much of the liquor in Oregon was made by and for Oregonians,[90] those who sought high quality liquor found it fairly easy to get Canada’s best.  With markets from Vancouver, British Columbia to San Diego,[91] the Pacific Coast had its own small version of the Atlantic seaboard’s famous “Rum Row”—a seemingly limitless line of boats along the coast that smuggled Canadian and Caribbean liquor into ports.  Along the Oregon coast, bootleggers commonly purchased liquor from rum-runners and Canadian suppliers anchored outside the three-mile limit, and in turn they would make a remarkable profit as middlemen by selling it to fishermen nearby.[92]  Also taking advantage of the three-mile enforcement limit at sea, an Oregon entrepreneur made plans to create a floating saloon out in the Pacific Ocean to service Oregonians desperate enough to sail out for a drink.[93]

Smuggling in liquor along the Oregon coast proved to be relative easy as the Coast Guard focused more of its efforts and resources along the California coast, leaving Oregon’s coast virtually neglected.[94]  On the occasion the Coast Guard discovered a bootlegger transporting liquor, the smaller, faster boats common along Rum Row usually outpaced the Coast Guard’s slower vessels.[95]  Because of the Coast Guard’s ineffectiveness controlling liquor smuggling, Portland received a steady supply of liquor from Astoria and nearby ports in Rocky Point, Columbia Beach, Ross Island, and Sand Island,[96] or directly shipped into its own docks.[97]  Once in Portland, the inept Harbor Patrol, consisting of only one harbormaster and three patrolmen,[98] did nothing to enforce prohibition laws.  In all of the city’s annual reports from 1916-1929, the Harbor Patrol reported zero arrests for prohibition violations.[99] Foreign vessels took advantage of this and federal commerce laws which allowed them to dock in U.S. ports while carrying liquor as long as the liquor was not sold on U.S. soil.[100]  So often did foreign vessels subvert U.S. prohibition laws that in 1925, the U.S. asked Canada and Mexico, two of the main suppliers of illicit liquor in the states, to withhold liquor cargo clearances unless export declarations were submitted and reported to the U.S.  Still, this failed to slow liquor exports into the states since authorities usually received declarations reports too late to intercept any contraband cargo.[101]

Law enforcement had just as much trouble with liquor smuggling via land transport.  A sizeable amount of Portland’s imported liquor came from Astoria in trucks[102] and from Canada on rail lines and trucks by way of Washington State.[103]  Vehicular transport became such an issue that Portland Chief of Police Lee V. Jenkins claimed in 1921 that “the foot patrol method” of law enforcement was “becoming obsolete.”[104]  Clever bootleggers insured their illegal cargoes against seizure under their automobile policies until the state attorney general made this practice unlawful.[105]  Still, it was hardly a loss to the typical smuggler in Portland since law enforcement focused not on smuggling, but on sales and possession. 

Part of the reason law enforcement could not control liquor smuggling into Portland was the lack of adequate funds.  This would not seem the case with Oregon being one of eighteen states appropriating funds for prohibition enforcement[106] and it consistently placing in the top ten in the nation for how much it appropriated.[107]  Although these monies helped keep Portland from being “a Chicago, New York, or Detroit,” as Portland vice squad Lieutenant Floyd Marsh claimed,[108] it was not enough to eliminate the illicit liquor trade.  Oregon routinely ran short of funds—in fiscal year 1924, state agents used up the year’s budget, approximately $25,000, in nine months.[109]  National enforcement within the state was even worse—Oregon received a disproportionately low amount of the $2 million set aside for all forty-eight states in 1920.[110]  Nine years later, federal budgeting for Oregon was just as abysmal, with the 20th District, consisting of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska receiving only $34,000 for a sixteen-month period.[111]  An early federal prohibition director, James Doran, claimed $300 million a year was necessary to properly enforce the Volstead Act, yet all federal prohibition expenditures never even approached one-sixth of that total at their height.[112]  Congress was reluctant to raise taxes high enough to give prohibition laws the teeth they needed in order to be effectively enforced.[113]

Such budgeting shortages made appropriate enforcement difficult.  The federal Prohibition Bureau never had any more 4,200 employees,[114] and only 1,520 of these were enforcement agents—roughly one federal agent per seventy thousand people.[115]  In Oregon, the ratio was worse, with only eight federal agents[116] for 831,339 people, or roughly one per one hundred thousand.[117]  In addition to manpower shortages, lack of equipment constrained field agents.  Because the Prohibition Bureau did not appropriate any aircraft, watercraft, or automobiles, agents had to borrow these vehicles form local and state agencies.[118]  Making matters worse, the Prohibition Bureau moved the 20th District headquarters from Portland to Seattle, leaving Portland as the only major city in the United States without a federal prohibition enforcement office.[119]  All of these factors contributed to Oregon ranking fortieth in the nation in illicit liquor seizures with only forty-eight gallons per ten thousand persons, and ranking thirty-seventh in the nation in seizing distilling apparatuses with only 5.2 pieces per ten thousand persons.[120]  Despite Federal Prohibition Director J.A. Linville’s claims that “comparison of the reports of the prohibition directors of other states show that Oregon is in the lead for enforcement of the prohibition law,”[121] Oregon actually struggled to enforce prohibition laws.

This was also evident in Oregon’s largest city, Portland.  Early on, the Portland Police Department realized the need for additional manpower and vehicles to combat flagrant prohibition violations.  With only thirty-nine patrolmen specializing in prohibition enforcement, Chief of Police Lee V. Jenkins formed and trained special squads of local businessmen with their own cars and gave them police power to assist in prohibition enforcement efforts.[122]  But, this additional help was not enough, not only because the two to three hundred professional bootleggers in Portland outnumbered them,[123] but also because federal, state, and local law enforcement officers contributed to the prohibition problem by violating the laws themselves. 

Prohibition Bureau agents continually stole headlines by causing countless scandals.  Not only had a severely inadequate budget destined the agency for failure from the start, but so did making employment a part of the political patronage system.[124]  With an agent’s salary set at a paltry $1,680 to $2,000 a year,[125] it was easy for many agents to be drawn into accepting payoffs.  In fact, because the lucrative nature of payoffs made it possible to earn a year’s salary in a single day, many sought political appointments to the bureau to cash in.  Corruption was so rampant in the Prohibition Bureau that there was a high turnover rate as agency leaders continually tried to clean out the criminal elements plaguing it.  In its first year, the agency fired one thousand agents, attorneys, and clerical workers,[126] and these high firing numbers continued until the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933.  A total of 1,587 field agents alone were fired for “just cause”—violations of their appointed duties to enforce prohibition laws.[127]

Just as much corruption plagued Portland’s police force.  Vice Squad Lieutenant Floyd Marsh admitted in his memoirs that as Portland operated as a central distribution point for Canadian liquor and moonshine from the nearby woods, bootleggers and smugglers paid $100,000 in protection money a month to protect their enterprises.[128]  Smaller sellers and bootleggers often operated unmolested by offering free liquor to beat cops.[129]  Approximately one hundred speakeasies and about as many beer and wine parlors in Portland thrived by paying off or supplying liquor to politicians and police officers.[130]  Though not everyone in City Hall or on the police force was corrupt, there were enough crooked leaders to bring down the effectiveness of the whole system.

Lieutenant Marsh was on the mark when he said that social elites got away subverting the laws while the ordinary citizens, especially “ethnic” peoples, paid the price of law enforcement.[131]  Instead of focusing on the bootleggers and smugglers, Portland police focused on the ethnic poor and the places they patronized,[132] mostly in the North End—the “vice” district.   Rare was the case when law enforcement seized sizeable caches of liquor or arrested main suppliers.  The federal prohibition director for Oregon, Johnson S. Smith, claimed there was a “liquor conspiracy of big proportions” in Portland when agents caught the former president of the Queen Bee Honey Company with $10,000 worth of wine and Portland’s Municipal Court allowed him to be tried hours after the arrest, leaving the prosecution no time to establish any conspiratorial links.[133]  In another case, police raided Walter E. Brown’s home and seized 108 cases of liquor valued at $13,000, in addition to confiscating information about his customers—many of which the police reported to be “prominent citizens.” Immediately after the raid, several of these customers called the police headquarters in an attempt to “cajole or intimidate police officials into dropping the case against Brown.”[134]  Portland’s social and civic elites had little interest in enforcing the law against their own kind.[135]

Part of this problem came from elite attitudes that prohibition laws were designed for the good of the working classes and poor, and that these laws did not apply to Portland’s upper crust.[136]  Confiscated liquor often “disappeared” during or after a trial, either taken by the police force for personal use or given as gifts to city officials.  Lieutenant Marsh found himself caught in the middle of these illegal activities, having reluctantly complied to orders from his superiors numerous times to deliver confiscated liquor to the city’s “big boys,” including the city commissioner.[137]  Although he was never caught, others were: state courts convicted three Oregon state agents in 1926 for selling confiscated liquor.[138] 

While Portland police abetted elite subversion of prohibition laws, they enforced them on Portland’s minorities and working class to maintain a façade of aggressive enforcement.  Although 18 percent of Portland’s population was foreign-born,[139] foreigners made up 25 to 30 percent of all drunkenness and prohibition arrests.[140]  Around the time of national prohibition, the Ku Klux Klan infiltrated Portland and recruited 150 of the approximately 375 officers on the police force.[141]  Police Chief Lee V. Jenkins claimed that prohibition crime came from the “inability of America to assimilate and Americanize the huge horde of immigrants that have come into the country.”[142]  The Oregonian agreed—in an editorial it declared foreign prohibition violators to be the “scum of Europe” and “a polygot rabble who have neither desire nor intention to become American citizens,” and that they “had better be shipped away to their own home ports like the cattle they are.”[143]  National prohibition director for Oregon, J.A. Linville, singled out Russian immigrants, saying that “Bolshevik whisky, as well as Bolshevik propaganda and soviet ideas, is being smuggled into America” and that after three drinks of vodka, “the drinker is ready to fight the police force, the bears at the city park, and a half dozen bob-cats thrown in for good measure.”[144]  Not surprisingly, a survey of docket records from January 3, 1920 to March 3, 1920, shows that “laborer” was the most common arrestee occupation, making up fifty-eight of 144 total prohibition and drunkenness arrests—almost six times the amount of arrests of the next highest occupation, which was “housewife.”  None of these arrests included social elites, and only six arrests—4 percent of the total—involved occupations that could be considered above working class, such as “landlord” and “restaurant proprietor.”[145]

Such discriminating enforcement contributed to the decline in popular support for prohibition.  Oregon’s vote to go bone-dry in 1916 narrowly passed fifty-one to forty-nine and over Portland’s resounding rejection of the measure,[146] proving that Oregonians and especially Portlanders contested prohibition from the start.  In 1921, Portland police registered only eighteen citizen complaints about prohibition violations, and this number declined every year down to two complaints in 1928—and zero the year before.[147]  With a population of approximately three hundred thousand registering three thousand drunkenness arrests and 1,500 prohibition violation arrests every year, a “high” of eighteen citizen complaints makes as much of a statement about Portland’s popular consensus of prohibition laws as the arrests themselves.  Violations of home privacy rights eroded any support for prohibition laws.  Based solely on an anonymous tip, Portland police raided John Doe Dingman’s home three times in five months, and each time found nothing.  Dingman voted for prohibition because he “thought the country would be better off,” but after his third raid, he displayed second thoughts:

If I can’t have a little privacy in my home, if my women folks have to insulted and ordered around like convicts, if a gang of strange men can come wandering through my house mussing things and making a public spectacle out of me before my neighbors, if I must stand all these things to have prohibition, then I am going to have to vote for whisky again.[148]


Corruption and ineffectiveness of prohibition laws, in addition to their lack of popularity, especially in Portland, were the key catalysts in Oregonians overwhelming voting to repeal national and state prohibition in 1933.[149]  As early as 1921, W.J. Herwig of the Oregon League said, “The greatest need in Oregon is to get the people to co-operate with the officials.  Where officers derelict their duty, we hope to bring the pressure of public sentiment to bear upon such officials and compel them to act.”[150]  The problem was that neither wanted to cooperate—“public sentiment” lent little support for the laws, and officers and agents freely acted “derelict” in their duties. 

With all the subversion of the laws and the corruption in enforcing them, it seems that nobody felt the law was intended to apply to themselves.  Portlanders of all classes frequently violated the laws by patronizing bootleggers and smugglers, or by engaging in those two enterprises themselves.  Law enforcement officers could only do so much to curb incessant violations of the law, and where resources did not limit them, their own lack of integrity did. Although Portland and the rest of Oregon registered less arrests and court cases per capita than many other parts of the nation during prohibition, the data showing who was arrested belie these accomplishments—Portland maintained a façade of decreased prohibition violations by not strictly enforcing the laws and by putting on an enforcement show by mostly applying the laws to immigrants and the working class.  The fact remains that prohibition enforcement, and the decrease in crime as a result, was a greater success in Portland and the whole state when compared to most of the nation, but like in the rest of the nation, prohibition enforcement failed to be effective.  Had law enforcement authorities in Portland and the rest of Oregon held themselves and the social elites amenable to the laws, Portland and the rest of the state could have been the lone success story of a failed chapter in U.S. history.

























Portland Police and Court Records[151]






Total Court

















































































¹ 1929 was the last year of comprehensive annual reports made by the mayor and city agencies. 






Portland Police Records By Ethnicity[152]


Native Drunk Arrests

Foreigner Drunk Arrests

Native Prohibition Arrests

Foreigner Prohibition Arrests

Total Percentage,

Total Percentage,
































¹ 1925-1928 were the only years the annual reports made by the mayor and city agencies broke down arrest numbers in this pattern.
















































Works Cited


Primary Sources

Association Against the Prohibition Amendment.  “Measuring the Liquor Tide.”  Washington, D.C.: privately printed, 1929.


___.  “Prohibition Enforcement: Its Effect on Courts and Prisons.”  Washington, D.C.: privately printed, 1930.


___.  “The Cost of Prohibition and Your Income Tax.”  Washington, D.C.: privately printed, 1929.


Albee, H.R.  Memorandum.  27 September 1916.  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


City of Portland, Oregon.  “Arrest Dockets, Volume 71.” 20 September 19194 March 1920.  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1916.”  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1917.”  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1918.” Text-microfilm.  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1919.” Text-microfilm.  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1920.” Text-microfilm.  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1921.”  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1922.” Text-microfilm.  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1923.”  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1924.” Text-microfilm.  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1925.”  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1926.”  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1927.”  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1928.”  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


___.  “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1929.”  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


City of Portland to Mayor Albee.  10 June 1916.  City of Portland Municipal Archives. 


“Mr. Churchill’s Compilation of Alcohol Sales by Druggists (Information taken from books at County Clerk’s Office).”  23 October 1916.  City of Portland Municipal Archives.


Oregonian, The (Portland).  10 August 19169 December 1928, 28 August 1999.


Untitled newspaper article, 2 January 1917. In Scrapbook 73. Oregon Historical Society.


Wessinger, Paul to George L. Baker, Mayor.  9 July 1917.  City of Portland Municipal Archives.



Secondary Sources

Asbury, Herbert.  The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition.  New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1950; reprint, New York: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1968. 


Burnham, J.C.  “New Perspectives on the Prohibition ‘Experiment’ of the 1920s.”  Journal of Social History 2, no. 1 (1968): 51-68.


Caswell, John Edwards.  “The Prohibition Movement in Oregon to the Adoption of Statewide Prohibition in 1914.”  M.A. thesis, University of Oregon, 1937.


Clark, Norman H.  The Dry Years: Prohibition and Social Change in Washington.  Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988.


Coffey, Thomas M.  The Long Thirst: Prohibition in America, 1920-1933.  New York: Norton & Company, Inc., 1975.


Feldman, Herman.  Prohibition: It’s Economic and Industrial Aspects.  New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1930.


Gordon, Ernest.  The Wrecking of the Eighteenth Amendment.  Francestown, New Hampshire: The Alcohol Information Press, 1943.


Hardaway, Robert M.  No Price Too High: Victimless Crimes and the Ninth Amendment.  Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2003.


Hernon, Peter and Terry Ganey.  Under the Influence: The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.


Kobler, John.  Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973.


Lansing, Jewel.  Portland: People, Politics, and Power, 1851-2001.  Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2003.


Lee, Henry.  How Dry We Were: Prohibition Revisited.  Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963.


MacColl, E. Kimbark.  The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1915 to 1950.  Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press, 1979.


Marsh, Floyd R.  20 Years a Soldier of Fortune.  Portland, Oregon: Binford & Mort, 1976.


Mennell, S.J.  “Prohibition: a Sociological View.”  Journal of American Studies 3, no. 2 (1969): 159-175.


Merz, Charles.  The Dry Decade.  Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1930.


Murdock, Catherine Gilbert.  Domesticating Drink: Women, Men, and Alcohol in America, 1870-1940.  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1998.


Pegram, Thomas R.  Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for Dry America, 1800-1933.  Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1998.


Perrett, Geoffrey.  America in the Twenties: A History.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.


Reed, Doug.  The Violation of Prohibition Laws in the Pacific Northwest: A Study In Organized Crime, Enforcement, and Political Corruption.”  Salem, Oregon: Department of Justice, Criminal Justice Division, 1978.


Rose, Kenneth D.  “The Labbe Affair and Prohibition Enforcement in Portland.”  Pacific Northwest Quarterly 77, no. 2 (1986): 42-51.


Tydings, Millard E.  Before and After Prohibition.  New York: The MacMillan Company, 1930.


Willoughby, Malcom F.  Rum War At Sea.  Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1964.

[1] A shortcoming of Asbury’s text is that it does not provide a works cited list because the author felt that it was “clear that such a record would fill at least another book as large as this one.”  However, this is a popularly cited source in numerous scholarly texts, including Norman H. Clark’s The Dry Years, which I use in this paper when referring to Portland and Oregon prohibition issues.  Because the scholars who have used the Asbury text in their own publications had to uphold the scholarly virtue of Asbury’s writings to validate their own work, I defer to their judgment.  In addition, I am satisfied with the information of the Asbury text being accurate, having compared it to several other early texts on national prohibition, including Ernest Gordon’s The Wrecking of the 18th Amendment (1943) and Charles Merz’s The Dry Decade (1930).


[2] Though Perrett’s text was popularly printed, it is as scholarly as any historical text.  He provides detailed footnotes of his many primary and secondary resources, and he also includes a “bibliographical essay” that evaluates sources he either referenced or consulted.  In fact, I borrowed heavily from his annotated bibliography to help me find my secondary sources, and I first became aware of his text from a U.S. survey text titled, Out of Many: A History of the American People (Faragher, et al., editors).

[3] Geoffrey Perrett, America in the Twenties: A History (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982), 166-167.


[4] Herbert Asbury, The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition (New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1950; reprint, New York: Greenwood Press Publishers, 1968) 40-41.


[5] Norman H. Clark, The Dry Years: Prohibition and Social Change in Washington (Seattle: University Press, 1988), 137.


[6] S.J. Mennel, “Prohibition: a Sociological View,” Journal of American Studies 3, No. 2 (1969): 166.


[7] Clark, 137.


[8] Quoted in Robert M. Hardaway, No Price Too High: Victimless Crimes and the Ninth Amendment (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2003), 52.


[9] Mennell, 167.


[10] Asbury, 39.


[11] Asbury, 116.  Ardent spirits is a general reference to beverages in which the alcohol content is measured by proof, instead of by percentage, such as whiskeys, vodkas, brandies, and rums.


[12] Clark, 29.


[13] John Edwards Caswell, “The Prohibition Movement in Oregon to the Adoption of Statewide Prohibition in 1914,” (M.A. thesis, University of Oregon, 1937), 94.


[14] Thomas R. Pegram, Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for Dry America, 1800-1933 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1998), 131.


[15] Caswell, 95.


[16] Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Domesticating Drink: Women, Men, and Alcohol in America, 1870-1940 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1988), 36.


[17] “Bone-dry” refers to prohibition of the manufacture, importation, and consumption of alcohol for intoxicating purposes.  Many bone-dry states still authorized alcohol for industrial and medical use, including Oregon.


[18] Murdock, 80.


[19] Jewel Lansing, Portland: People, Politics, and Power, 1851-2001 (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2003), 300.


[20] Murdock, 36.


[21] Lansing, 300.


[22] City of Portland Oregon, “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1916,” p. 30, City of Portland Municipal Archives.


[23] Clark, 138.


[24] Ibid., 139.


[25] Mennell, 162.


[26] Clark, 142.


[27] Quoted in H.R. Albee, memorandum, 27 September 1916, City of Portland Municipal Archives.


[28] Untitled newspaper article, 2 January 1917, in Scrapbook 73, Oregon Historical Society, 162.


[29] Albee.


[30] Ibid.


[31] City of Portland to H.R. Albee, 10 June 1916, City of Portland Municipal Archives.


[32] Ibid.


[33] Albee.


[34] Clark, 149.


[35] Murdock, 89.


[36] Ernest Gordon, Wrecking the Eighteenth Amendment (Francestown, New Hampshire: The Alcohol Information Press, 1943), 283.


[37] J.C. Burnham, “New Perspectives on the Prohibition ‘Experiment’ of the 1920s,” Journal of Social History 2, No.1 (1968): 55.


[38] Perrett, 169.


[39] Hardaway, 55.


[40] “Mr. Churchill’s Compilation of Alcohol Sales by Druggists (Information taken from books at County Clerk’s Office,” 23 October 1916, City of Portland Municipal Archives.


[41] “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports… 1916,” 48.


[42] Hardaway, 55-56.


[43] Scrapbook 73, 162.


[44] Perrett, 175.


[45] Asbury, 238.


[46] Peter Hernon and Terry Ganey, Under the Influence: The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), 154.


[47] Perrett, 175.


[48] Asbury, 234.


[49] Asbury, 234.  The Oregonian reported that soft drink vendors were commonly discovered selling needled soda.  The Oregonian (Portland), 4 June 1920.


[50] Hernon, 108-109.


[51] The Oregonian (Portland), 28 August  1999. (No, the date is not a typo.)


[52] Paul Wessinger to George L. Baker, 9 July 1917, City of Portland Municipal Archives.


[53] The Oregonian (Portland), 13 January 1928.


[54] Albee.


[55] The Oregonian (Portland), 28 August 1999.


[56] Hernon, 132.


[57] The Oregonian (Portland), 18 July 1919.


[58] Quoted in Kenneth D. Rose, “The Labbe Affair and Prohibition Enforcement in Portland,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 77, No. 2 (1986): 44.


[59] Ibid., 45.


[60] Quoted in ibid.


[61] Quoted in ibid.


[62] The Oregonian (Portland), 24 March 1925.


[63] The Oregonian (Portland), 5 January 1924.


[64] Asbury, 229.


[65] The Oregonian (Portland), 23 November 1923.


[66] The Oregonian (Portland), 30 August 1921.


[67] “Prohibition Extracts.”


[68] The Oregonian (Portland), 17 November 1921.


[69] The Oregonian (Portland), 8 December 1920.


[70] Perrett, 171.  A popular “padlock” story is when federal prohibition agents padlocked a hollowed-out redwood in northern California.  Agents discovered the tree, twenty-four feet in diameter, hiding a fifty-gallon still.  Charles Merz, The Dry Decade (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1931), 150.


[71] City of Portland Oregon, “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1923,” p. 9, City of Portland Municipal Archives.


[72] The Oregonian (Portland), 18 October 1923.


[73] Association Against Prohibition Amendment, “Measuring the Liquor Tide” (Washington, D.C.: privately printed, 1929), 10; Herman Feldman, Prohibition: Its Economic and Industrial Aspects (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1930), 143.  The Association recorded 170 arrests per ten thousand, and Feldman recorded 168.


[74] This number was calculated based on arrests records from the “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports” and census records for Portland from 1910 and 1920.  Portland experienced a 2.0 percent annual growth rate between these years and an estimated population for Portland in 1917 was made based on this rate.   


[75] Millard E. Tydings, Before and After Prohibition (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1930), 9-11; and “Measuring,” 10.  Tydings recorded 140 arrests per ten thousand, and the Association recorded 150.


[76] Association Against Prohibition Amendment, “Prohibition Enforcement: Its Effect on Courts and Prisons” (Washington, D.C.: privately printed, 1930), 7.


[77] Asbury, 169.


[78] City of Portland Oregon, “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1920,” City of Portland Municipal Archives.  This information was compiled from various pages.  The 1920 report was the only one from 1916-1929 that had numbers for total court cases, drunkenness cases, and prohibition cases.  Other years had only one or two of these categories, and looking at the data from other years, it is fair to make the case that 1920 is a fair year to use for contrast to the national numbers.  See “Portland Police and Court Records” in the appendix.


[79] “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports… 1916,” 48.


[80] Albee.


[81] Asbury, 169.


[82] Hardaway, 43.


[83] Henry Lee, How Dry We Were: Prohibition Revisited (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963), 152.  Michigan treated prohibition offenses as felonies because they were in violation of federal law. But, not all states did this, nor did the federal government attempt to force the states to comply in this manner.


[84] The Oregonian (Portland), 4 May 1923.  “Though the state law provides for an extended term of imprisonment for persistent violators of prohibition laws, it is a matter of common knowledge that no person has ever been brought to trial as an [sic] habitual offender.”


[85] The Oregonian (Portland), 6 February 1923.


[86] City of Portland Oregon, “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1924,” text-microfilm p. 2374 and 2379. City of Portland Municipal Archives.


[87] Ibid., 2377-2379.


[88] The Oregonian (Portland), 29 April 1920.


[89] Doug Reed, “The Violation of Prohibition Laws in the Pacific Northwest: A Study in Organized Crime, Enforcement, and Political Corruption” (Salem, Oregon: Department of Justice, Criminal Justice Division, 1978), 17.


[90] Ibid., 2.


[91] Asbury, 235.


[92] The Oregonian (Portland), 10 August 1916.


[93] The Oregonian (Portland), 15 August 1916.


[94] Malcom F. Willoughby, Rum War At Sea (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1964), 75.


[95] Perrett, 174.


[96] Rose, 48.


[97] The Oregonian, (Portland) 1916-1933.


[98] “Annual Reports… 1916,” 61.


[99] The Oregonian reported a few cases during the prohibition era in which ship raids yielded liquor confiscations, but these were carried out by other enforcement agencies.


[100] The Oregonian (Portland), 20 November 1921.


[101] John Kobler, Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973), 254.


[102] Reed, 3.


[103] The Oregonian (Portland), 15 January 1921.


[104] City of Portland Oregon, “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports for the Fiscal Year Ending November 30, 1921,” p. 11, City of Portland Municipal Archives.


[105] The Oregonian (Portland), 22 November 1923.


[106] Burnham, 58.


[107] Association Against Prohibition Amendment, “The Cost of Prohibition and Your Income Tax” (Washington, D.C.: privately printed, 1930), 13.


[108] Floyd R. Marsh, 20 Years a Soldier of Fortune (Portland, Oregon: Binford & Mort, 1976), 180.


[109] The Oregonian (Portland), 29 February 1924.


[110] Thomas M. Coffey, The Long Thirst: Prohibition in America, 1920-1933 (New York: Norton & Company, Inc., 1975), 69.


[111] Reed, 7.


[112] “Income Tax,” 1 and 3.


[113] Merz, 152.


[114] Lee, 155.


[115] Asbury, 135.


[116] The Oregonian (Portland), 4 May 1923. 


[117] Oregon experienced a 2.0 percent annual growth rate from 1920 to 1930, and an estimate for the 1923 population was made from that data.


[118] Reed, 7; Perrett, 171.


[119] The Oregonian (Portland), 2 July 1925.


[120] “Liquor Tide,” 16-17.


[121] The Oregonian (Portland), 5 August 1922.


[122] “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports… 1921,” 11.


[123] The Oregonian (Portland), 4 May 1923.


[124] Burnham, 57.


[125] Asbury, 135.


[126] Perrett, 170.


[127] Kobler, 273.


[128] Marsh, 187.


[129] Reed, 2.


[130] Marsh, 187.


[131] Marsh, 181 and 186.


[132] Rose, 49.


[133] The Oregonian (Portland), 4 April 1920.


[134] The Oregonian (Portland), 23 November 1923.


[135] The only other raid against a social elite reported in The Oregonian from 1916 to 1933 was conducted against A.G. Labbe, which is the subject of Kenneth Rose’s article.


[136] This was a national attitude.  Prohibition agents found a still on the property of Senator Morris Sheppard (Texas), author of the Eighteenth Amendment.  Hardaway, 67.


[137] Marsh, 181-182.


[138] Rose, 51.


[139] Rose, 50.


[140] This information was compiled from the “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports” from 1925-1928, which were the only years that broke down arrests by native/foreigner status.  See “Portland Police Records by Ethnicity” in the appendix.


[141] E. Kimbark MacColl, The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1915-1950 (Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press, 1979), 165 and 279.


[142] The Oregonian (Portland), 11 April 1926.


[143] The Oregonian (Portland), 3 May 1923.


[144] The Oregonian (Portland), 24 April 1923.


[145] City of Portland, “Arrest Dockets, Volume 71,” 20 September 19194 March 1920, City of Portland Municipal Archives.


[146] Lansing, 309.


[147] “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports,” 1916-1929.


[148] The Oregonian (Portland), 5 January 1924.


[149] Lansing, 328.


[150] The Oregonian (Portland), 11 September 1921.

[151] Data compiled from “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports” 1916-1929.


[152] Data compiled from “Mayor’s Message and Annual Reports” 1925-1928.