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Smugglers, Bootleggers, and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City Paperback – December 1, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Excelsior Editions (December 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1438448163
  • ISBN-13: 978-1438448169
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #842,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

" Enlightening and entertaining."

Prof. Ronald H. Spector, Author of At War at Sea: Sailors and Naval Combat in the Twentieth Century.      " Fans of Boardwalk Empire will love it, while social and maritime historians will find much of interest."

Field Horne, Chair (2001-2012), Conference on New York State History.


"... Lawson gives us a vivid and fresh examination of the rum-running era in New York City's history."

From the Author

I presented a paper on this subject at a New York State History Conference in Saratoga Springs,  and published a brief summary in Prologue: Journal of the National Archives in  2011. Sources are 90 archival boxes of records of seized vessels for 1920-33 by the U.S. Coast Guard which are stored in the National Archives in Washington D.C. These records, confidential for many years,  cover  the coastal United States and Great Lakes, and are organized by name of the vessel,  not  geographically. (Hence, one must go through all the boxes to determine which files are relevant to  New York City.)  I found many unpublished photographs in these records including snapshots of bootleggers on vacation, police mug shots, and a nautical chart documenting the location of a rum ship off Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and eastern Long Island in the area known as Rum Row. Selections from these appear in the book.

In addition,  known and published primary and secondary sources on the subject were consulted. I believe I am  the first historian to integrate these into a coherent, systematic narrative  of the markets of supply and demand for New York City, as well as being the first to cite seized vessel for the city and its environs.

Raised on Cape Cod, my first five summers were spent in the keeper's cottage of the Sandy Neck lighthouse overlooking Barnstable harbor, and the rest of my youth I lived in West Falmouth on the southwestern side of the Cape. Conducting oral history interviews of Sandy Neck residents in the 1990s, on my first return visit to the lighthouse,  I  learned a cottage adjacent to it was used by rum runners during Prohibition. I also learned double-ender ("double-endahs") boats were  popular with smugglers since you could use either end for loading or unloading.  Then, while visiting the National Archives to consult Coast Guard records on the early years of "my" lighthouse,  I  "discovered" previously confidential  Seized Vessel files (90 boxes) for Prohibition. And I was hooked.

P.S. Joe Kennedy is  mentioned in my book. Check it out!

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By PageTurner on January 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book reads as a novel - fast paced and illustrated. The book is a scholarly thesis with original research, yet is an easy and fascinating read about a little documented period in US history. Many plots are included which would make excellent action movies. There are laugh-out-loud twists of fate, fascinating characters, wild action scenes, adventures at sea in dead of night. There are murders, betrayals and successes. But which side are you rooting for? Where does it all fit into history? This is a must read. Most of this information will be completely new to you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By joseph stella on February 3, 2014
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Overall, it is a terrible book. The author lacks a point of view. The book is a pastiche of snippets of locations, incidents and names
mentioned in many other more informative chronicles about the period. The writing indicates that the author has little accurate knowledge of the locations, people and incidents of which she writes; #51-53 V Avenue in Brooklyn?, Club 21 ?. A disappointment.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By maryl c on January 28, 2014
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In her book, Smugglers, Bootleggers and Scofflaws, Lawson places her exciting discovery of previously unpublished Coast Guard records in historical context for the reader interested in a story of prohibition that moves beyond myths and stereotypes. Although Lawson writes from her background as a historian, the average reader will find this book chock full of entertaining and enjoyable stories of the real people who made this era so unforgettable. Lawson’s notes and bibliography alone are worth the price of the book!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tasha K. Medley on December 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a very engrossing and entertaining history of prohibition in NYC. The author has put together tons of interesting and quaint stories that illustrate the drama of that time period. Lawson makes the time period come alive. I enjoyed the book a lot.
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At some point "historians" go through the phase of doing extensive research of sources, taking notes and making copies of those deemed most relevant or interesting. Historians such as McCullouch (to chose one of the American greats among many) go the next step, synthesizing the material into a eminently readable narrative conveying a defensible viewpoint and noting the viewpoint of others as well as commenting on the soundness of the sources used and unused.
This book unfortunately is in the first phase. It is a pastiche as noted by another reviewer. There is value in wading through it if one has the time and interest in the era and region. It is unreadable if one does not. "So many books, so little time."
I do hope Ms Lawson maintains her enthusiasm and goes on to be a great historian. But for now she needs to hone her history-as-a-story skills and also seek out a great editor.
Reading McPhee or most of "The New Yorker" non-fiction writers wouldn't hurt her either.
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