15 Pictures of People Wasting Perfectly Good Alcohol During Prohibition

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Anyone who has ever caught an episode of Boardwalk Empire knows the extreme—and sometimes violent—lengths to which bootleggers went to keep the alcohol flowing during America’s Prohibition years. But 20th century lawmen and teetotalers were just as committed to their cause, as evidenced by these vintage photos of people wasting perfectly good alcohol.

1. Dismantling a still

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Agents in San Francisco ensure that the hooch would stop flowing from this particular still by dismantling it altogether.

2. Orange County Sheriff dumps bootleg booze

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In California’s Orange County, Sheriff Sam Jernigan, Undersheriff Ed McClellan, and Santa Ana Constable Jesse Elliott oversee the destruction of some bootlegged booze.

3. Prohibition agents destroy barrels of alcohol

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This photo, which shows Prohibition agents emptying several barrels of alcohol, first appeared in the Chicago Daily News in 1921.


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With a deck full of contraband, the crew of the Linwood—a rum-running ship—opted to set their boat afire in order to destroy the evidence when they were pursued by a patrol boat in 1923.

5. Zion City, Ill. destroys 80,000 pint bottles of beer

Library of Congress

Mrs. Graze Knippen holds up one of the 80,000 pint bottles of beer she helped to get rid of in Zion City, Ill.


Library of Congress

Zion City Mayor Hurd Clendinen made sure the press was on hand to witness—and photograph—his city’s commitment to the Prohibition movement.

7. Smashing Barrels

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An axe makes a perfect took for smashing barrels full of alcohol, as this man discovers in 1921.

8. Pouring It Away

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A well-placed sewer drain could be a teetotaler’s best friend.

9. Bottle throwing in Boston

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Bottles of wine and spirits are hurled at a brick wall in Boston in 1920.

10. Wine flush

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In February 1920, just after the start of Prohibition in America, a crowd of excited onlookers watch as 33,100 gallons of vino are flushed into the gutter outside of the North Cucamonga Winery in Los Angeles.

11. Beer street

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Barrels of suds are spilled into the streets, forming a river of beer in 1925.

12. Down the drain

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A thirsty drain is the final resting place for this barrel of liquid contraband.


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In 1932, a year before Prohibition was repealed, deputies in Orange County, Calif. rid the city of an impressive stash of illegal booze.

14. Nine men smashing bottles in dump

Dewar's Repeal, Flickr

Taking a cue from Zion City, 18,000 bottles of beer made their way from Philadelphia to Washington, DC—only to be smashed to smithereens at the local dump.

15. Drink poured down the sewer

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A group of officials look on as a barrel of alcohol is poured down a New York manhole.