Americas,  ER,  United States

Lucy the bootlegging elephant

13095956_264031303938959_6574070641705967707_nJust a short piece today outlining one of the oddities of prohibition.

Atlantic City was ground zero for prohibition and the thwarting of it.  Prohibition prohibited the production, transfer and sale of alcohol, not the consumption of it.  So, if you could get it into the country, you could drink it without violating the law.  However, the law was essentially unenforced by the authorities in Atlantic City, and it became a haven for gangsters and smugglers.  Seven miles out off shore in international waters was “rum runners row”.  All of this could be seen from the suite on the ninth floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where Boss Nucky Johnson conducted his business.  His motto was “We have whiskey, wine, women, song and slot machines. I won‘t deny it and I won’t apologize for it. If the majority of the people didn’t want them they wouldn’t be profitable and they wouldn’t exist. The fact that they do exist proves to me that the people want them.”  He had a point, but how to get the liquid gold into the Atlantic City from rum runners row without getting caught?  That was where Lucy came in.

Lucy was built in 1881 as a sales gimmick.  The elephant shaped building had served as a real estate office, a private residence and even a bar until prohibition caused it to close down.  Now Lucy helped the smugglers bring in their illicit cargo.  Lucy is visible on clear days for up to eight miles out to sea, perfect for rum runners row.  Spies would go out and check to see if the coast guard or if any other authorities were patrolling the beaches.  If they were, a red light would shine out from Lucy’s eyes, warning the boats to stay put.  If the coast was clear, a green light would shine out of Lucy’s eyes, and Nucky Johnson’s speed boats would head out to pick up their cargo.

As soon as prohibition was repealed, Lucy went back to being a bar.  She has been saved from the wrecking ball many times and is a beloved tourist attraction on the Atlantic City coastline.


Sources available on request