January 18th, 2021

Hazards of the bootlegging business

By Jensen, Randy on August 19, 2020.


by Andrew Chernevych

The era of alcohol prohibition in Alberta is closely tied to bootlegging activities, or illegally transporting and selling alcohol. This was especially prevalent in southern Alberta along the border with the United States, which was a lucrative market for the illegal alcohol trade. The Crowsnest Pass was rife with bootleggers, but Lethbridge saw its fair share of the trade as well. It was an opportunity that attracted hustlers of all sorts. The Lethbridge Herald published an article in April 1920 that captures some surprising risks associated with this illegal business.

The Alberta Provincial Police received a tip about six cases of illegal whisky that were ready to be shipped to Montana. The bootlegger, a smuggler from Montana named W. Sheridan, had recently purchased two new suitcases in Lethbridge and was traced to a local hotel. The detective on the case knew that the whisky had been picked up from the distiller and was ready to be shipped. The bust, however, couldn’t be carried out – the illegal booze got stolen!

The police were as baffled as Sheridan. The whisky was worth $420. It attracted the interest of other bootleggers who stole it from the garage where it was being stored. The empty-handed Sheridan confessed to the illegal purchase and implicated the local druggist F. Hedley who sold him the whisky on a fake prescription. Hedley was fined $200.

Sheridan stated that the loss of the whisky and the deal had left him stranded in Lethbridge. He was given $15 to cover his travel expenses back to Montana.

Explore photographs and artifacts from the era of alcohol prohibition in our collections database at collections.galtmuseum.com.

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