From congressional bootleggers to Beltway booze bans

Ben Carnes writes over at the R Street blog:

Fans of the HBO drama Boardwalk Empire will no doubt recall the series’ many Prohibition-era scenes featuring high-level politicians rubbing elbows with bootleggers and openly imbibing in private, even as they assailed the purported societal dangers of the “devil’s brew” in public. One needn’t look further than the story of George Cassiday for a glimpse into one of the many historic precedents that inspired such vignettes.

Cassiday was a World War I veteran who, upon returning home from Europe, found bootlegging to be a sufficiently lucrative means of making a living. He found an especially promising market in selling his contraband liquor to members of Congress, many of whom were vocal proponents of the very same Prohibition that necessitated his nefarious actions.

Cassiday, famous for the green felt hat he frequently donned, turned his first congressional bootlegging transaction – a sale to two representatives who were Prohibition advocates – into a booming business that ultimately saw “the man in the green hat” gain nearly unfettered access to Capitol Hill, freely operating out of Cannon House Office Building....