January 16, 1920, the U.S. Eighteenth Amendment banning the sale,
manufacture or transportation of “intoxicating liquor”
took effect. An atmosphere of general lawlessness was bred by prohibition,
bootleggers and gamblers. Gangsters fought to secure a share of
the lucrative business and corrupt politicians turned a blind eye
as mobsters like Al Capone terrorized entire cities.
Canadian provinces went dry at the same time the Eighteenth Amendment
came into place. The Liquor Control Act in Ontario (LCA) forbid
public or hotel drinking but did not prohibit the manufacture and
export of liquor.
border cities like Windsor, this loophole in the Act would set the
course for a wild decade never seen before or since. Opposite Windsor
was big parched Detroit and beyond, the entire U.S. with its tongue
hanging out. It didn’t take long for enterprising businessmen
in Windsor to set up export docks to supply those thirsty Americans.
Detroit River was a smugglers’ paradise; 28 miles long and
less than a mile across in some areas, with thousands of coves and
hiding places along its shore and islands. Along with Lake Erie,
Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River, these waterways carried
an incredible 75% of the liquor supplied to the United States during
In this three part series, The TIMES Magazine focuses on prohibition
and the Border Cities.