Repeal day!

Welcome to the best holiday ever! OKAY, maybe just the best holiday commemorating the withdrawal of constitutional legislation that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

It’s REPEAL DAY, the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933.

Prohibition in Detroit meant the rise of the Purple Gang, a coalition of mostly Jewish gangsters, bootleggers, rum runners and hijackers  that controlled the passage across the Detroit river to Canada.

(1929: A Detroit News photographer hiding in a coal elevator took this photo of bootleggers loading their cars. From a 1999 Detroit News Michigan History special, which is a nice primer on the rise and fall of the Purple Gang.)

My grandfather, who immigrated to Detroit from what is now Belarus when he was 20 years old, associated with members of the Oakland Sugar House Gang — and why wouldn’t he? A small-time scrapper, rag shop worker and flop-house builder, my grandfather probably needed work wherever he could get it, and they were his people. He was arrested running corn sugar to blind pigs and bathtub distillers, but the judge, who knew he wasn’t a gangster, didn’t send him to jail.

The Sugar House Gang merged with another gang of East Side Jewish extortionists to form the Purple Gang in the early 1920s. Most of my grandfather’s friends — Harry Shorr, Eddie Fletcher — had been wiped out during the gang’s post-Prohibition implosion. My grandfather lived to see his 80s.

I raise a mimosa to him today. Celebrate the freedom to celebrate!

#alcohol#jews#prohibition#purple gang#repeal day


  1. stephen cohen - December 4, 2015 @ 11:27 pm

    hi names stephen cohen i am related to eddie fletcher..he was my grandpas uncle ….my grandpa was also named stephen cohen ..and his father was jack cohen and jacks wife minnie grandpas dad jack grew up in the bronx i know most of the family disowned eddie because of his gang ways but he was a boxer like my grandpa jack…i heard of stories of them hiding guns in jacks wifes closet and when she found them she flipped…he then moved out of ny to somewhere…my grandpa jack then owned two cigar shops and a souviner shop and he also owned seven nickel and dime stores…alot of the people in the family say i look like him small frame but tough boxing and i hope i can hear back from you i really dont know much about him at all…all my grandpas side of the familys dead and my grandpa passed last yr but he did talk about him alot

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