New York

On May 23, 1933, almost 2 million voters in the state of New York voted to repeal Prohibition by a margin of over 85%. That vote was ratified a little over a month later on June 27. New York's experience with prohibition was an interesting one. Prohibition in New York was characterized by lax enforcement and disrespect for an unpopular law.

  • This disregard for law is illustrated by and article in the Chicago Tribune from 1930 which quotes a prohibition official chidingly telling New York officials that “32,000 bars is not prohibition.”

  • Those 32,000 bars were supplied from a variety of sources, including a collection of ships off the coast stocked with liquor. A 1924 New York Times article interviewed the captain of one such ship. This rum runner was quite laid back, and, when discussing a new treaty that expanded the area near the shore in which the Coast Guard could pursue rum runners, he “laughed when asked if it would be effective.” He talked of the effective use of seaplanes and how “if the prohibition people tell you the truth, they will admit that the stuff is coming greater quantities than ever before.” He describes his job as “great-fun,” mentioning that “some of us take our wives along.”

  • The economical situation of the ships laden with liquor off the coast was also discussed, and it is pointed out that they could remain off the coast almost indefinitely, waiting for the proper time to have cargo delivered. This runner did not seem at all phased by the fact that his profession was illegal.

  • In addition to fostering a general disrespect for the law, prohibition had the effect of overcrowding the justice system. In some parts of the State, according to a 1929 summary of the Wickersham commission's report, 93% of all cases were prohibition-related.

Click on a region below to find interesting stories regarding that area's experience with prohibition.

New York City

Long Island

Buffalo/Niagara Region




32,000 BARS IS NOT PROHIBITION, NEW YORK TOLD :Dry Chief Puts Blame on Mayor Walker...Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963); Feb. 11, 1930 ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1986). pg. 8

RUM-RUNNERS LAUGH AT NEW 12-MILE TREATY. By HOWARD MINGOS. New York Times (1857-Current file); May 11, 1924; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2004) pg. XX4

Wickersham Commission's Reports on Five Wet States, Including New York. Special to The New York Times. New; Mar 4, 1931; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2004) pg. 24