'Bootleggers Bash!'

'Bootleggers Bash!' 
Celebrate Baltimore's Prohibition Past  
Hosted by the Maryland Historical Society's Young Defenders

BALTIMORE, January 28, 2013 - "Not many people know this, but Baltimore was a prime spot for bootleggers in the 1920s," says Chandler Denison, Chairman of the Young Defenders of the Maryland Historical Society. "While the rest of America had 'dry' laws that outlawed the sale of liquor, Maryland never endorsed Prohibition. And Baltimore, in particular, was viewed as a hotbed of resistance. Our city's independent spirit really showed through."

Celebrating this storied past, the Young Defenders of the Maryland Historical Society are presenting a night of glamour and revelry - speakeasy-style - on February 23, 2013 at 9pm. The event, called the 'Bootleggers Bash,' will be held at Meli Restaurant in historic Fells Point (1636 Thames Street, Baltimore, MD 21231). Formal dress and 1920s attire is encouraged.

The Baltimore Bootleggers Bash will feature an appetizer buffet, special Prohibition cocktails, a full open bar, and special small-batch liquor from The American Still Life Collection, provided by The Country Vitner.

The great Swingin' Swamis - named 'one of the premier area party bands' by Baltimore Magazine - will be playing jazz and 1920s-era standards.

"We are hosting this event in honor of the history that shaped our city, and in celebration of Baltimore's fiercely independent spirit," Denison said.

Maryland: A Prime Location for Bootleggers

During Prohibition, (1918-1933), states across the country passed laws making it illegal to make or distribute alcohol. But Maryland was the only state to forgo passing an Enforcement Act, and proudly, and defiantly, labeled itself a 'wet' state.

The expansive waters of the Chesapeake and its hundreds of miles of coastline made the state an ideal stop for bootleggers, some of whom sailed here from far-flung locales such as Canada and Mexico, where they unloaded their contraband under the cover of night. The Chesapeake's marshes were thick with illegal stills that produced thousands of gallons of moonshine - and Chesapeake Rumrunners, as they were called - crafted swift vessels to transport their goods to waiting cars or trains, many bound for Baltimore. The moonshine would then be sold in speakeasies. These saloons had hidden doors, secret passwords and escape routes in case of a federal raid.

Crime flourished during this period, and mobsters made staggering amounts off the sale of these illegal goods.

"H.L. Mencken Celebrates Repeal at the Hotel Rennert," December 1933, Maryland Historical Society, [PVF] (Note: Formerly designated as Z24.1059 & Z24.1679)

The writer H.L. Mencken, known as 'The Sage of Baltimore,' was a vehement opponent of Prohibition. "There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more," he said. "There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished."

One of the gems in the collections of the Maryland Historical Society is a photograph of H.L. Mencken taken at the Rennert Hotel on December 5, 1933 - the day the 18th Amendment was repealed. Mencken's eyes grow wide as he finally gets to taste a legally purchased beer. The 'noble experiment' of Prohibition had failed, and to this day, Americans of legal drinking age are once again able to purchase and consume alcohol.

About The Young Defenders

Young Defenders Logo

The Young Defenders of the Maryland Historical Society are focused on reinvigorating history in Maryland through social engagement and historical events. "The Bootleggers Bash is our inaugural event," Denison said, "We are really excited about it. We want to introduce Maryland's rich and intriguing history to a new generation of Old Line State residents."

Event Details:

Location: Meli Restaurant (1636 Thames Street in historic Fells Point)

Time: Saturday, February 23rd from 9:00 PM until 1:00 AM

Ticket Prices: $65.00 (advance purchase); $75.00 (day of event); $55.00 (members of the Maryland Historical Society).

Tickets can be purchased securely online at www.mdhs.org/events or by calling 410.685.3750 x399.

All proceeds will support the Maryland Historical Society, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Maryland history.

The Baltimore Bootleggers Bash is being presented by Ruff Roofers, Maryland's preferred roofing contractors crowning the Maryland State House, Baltimore City Hall, and properties throughout the state. Additional support is generously provided by Venable Foundation, KatzAbosch, ShopRite, Clinkee, The Country Vintner, and Flying Dog Brewery.

For more information, contact Marketing Director Laura Rodini at 410-685-3750 Ext. 322 or lrodini@mdhs.org.

Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine."

The Society is located at 201 W. Monument Street and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday from 10 am-5 pm, and Sunday (museum only) 12 pm-5pm.