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The Traffickers, Oil Workers and a Pig PietroBadoglio

New York City bustled with traffic. Drivers in speedy cars, mostly Chevrolets, picked up trunk loads of shine at the edge of the border and sped along the cities unpaved back streets towards the highway. Many of them were headed to the neighbouring states – New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Other tippers eased their cars down the boat slip and onto the ferry, the first leg of the trip to Louisiana – the oil capital of America.

The men who worked in the oil fields made good wages, spending every dollar on vices such as moonshine and ladies of the line. The workers usually kicked up their boots in various barrel houses along the coast, typically buying moonshine in used Coca-Cola bottles, which could be refilled countless times. (‘Barrel House’ denoted a bar where the barkeep ejected a drunk who had run out of money by putting him in a barrel and rolling him down a boat slip. A quick dip is just what a drunk needs!)

When prohibition began, local lawmen naively believed they could enforce the shiners by shutting down the stills around New York. They also made numerous forays to seize stills in others neighbouring states. The raids failed to stop the shiners. For every confiscated still, the shiners fired up two new ones. Shrewd shiners used the raids as an excuse for raising their prices, claiming they had a shortage of product due to the seizures.

Despite raids and arrests, New York stillers spent little time in jail because local juries rarely convicted them. In a more or less typical case, a young bootlegger was arrested for possessing mashed potato and distilling equipment – including copper pots. At his trail, he testified that he used the copper pots to cook sweet potatoes for his ‘hogs’. He said he learned in school that yams were good pig feed if they were boiled and mashed. He claimed that the mash fermenting in barrels was also hog feed. Although no pigs were found at his residence, the jurors approved of his swine-feeding regiment and he was acquitted.