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In 1919 the Volstead Act outlawed the sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages. The result was that those who wanted to consume liquor had to find illicit sources and secretive ways to obtain and transport it. More often than not we think of the 1920s speakeasies as the most popular source. With a secret password, drinkers gained entrance into these “devil's dens," where illegal hooch flowed freely. The source of hooch was the home distillery or the bootlegger. Transportation methods varied greatly, depending upon the quantity to be moved. Those interested in small quantities for personal consumption were extremely creative. Small pocket flasks hidden beneath clothing, hollow canes, eggs drained and refilled, and false books were just a few examples.

The Museum owns a very unique method used to transport illegal hooch; a prohibition doll. Made from a store-purchased doll with a composition (a paper maché-like mixture of sawdust and glue) head and hands. The torso was removed and replaced with a wooden box lined with copper. A screw lid on the face of the box and a spigot on the bottom completed the hidden storage device, which was covered with padding, reattached to the head, arms, and legs, and dressed in modified clothing.The most interesting aspect of the doll is how the hooch is released.The spigot, cleverly placed between the doll's legs, opens when the left leg is lifted.

Imagine getting stopped by a police officer with this doll delicately laid across the front seat. What do you think would happen? Would the officer suspect illegal transportation?


Written By

Susan Hartzold

Susan Hartzold

Posted in Collection Highlights

February 26th, 2014

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