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Bootleggers Little Green Book


The Era of Prohibition may have ended on December 5, 1933 with repeal of the Volstead Act by the ratification of the 21st Amendment, however, the desire for bootlegged alcohol was still strong in North Dakota. On this day in 1934, the citizens from twenty-two towns in the center of the state were wondering which ones of their neighbors were regular customers.

Responding to a tip of a possible violation of the city’s beer selling ordinance, Carrington Police Chief R. J. Brady, accompanied by Commissioner W. H. Roach, approached a 1933 Ford coupe occupied by a man named Arlie Carter along with another individual. When questioned the unknown man reached for a gun hidden in the back seat but the officer was able to overpower him and pull him from the car. The stranger managed to escape however besides his partner he left behind his car, 52 gallons of straight alcohol, 2 gallons of whisky, an automatic pistol and his little green book giving the names of liquor customers and dealers in twenty-two area towns. This included a line of towns from Carrington west along Highway 200 as far as Washburn and a few north and south from Devils Lake to Woodworth naming people in towns such as Turtle Lake, Heaton, Goodrich, Sykeston and most other small towns in the area..

Along with the customer’s names, the little green book also offered the credit rating of each and contained penciled notations such as “Drinks but not much,”“Buys once in a while” or an “OK.” Many had a terse “NG” meaning “No Good” after their name and for some it merely stated “keep away.” Of interest to the authorities is that the liquor salesman’s best girl’s name and address were written in the back of the book in her own handwriting.

The ledger also listed the going price for the bootlegged alcohol at $4.00 a gallon and whiskey at $3.00 a quart. Prohibition was over and retail prices in the area for legal alcohol were $12.00 per gallon for alcohol and $7.00 per quart for whiskey. The bootlegger sold the first gallon for $4.00 but additional gallons were more expensive with two gallons at $8.25, three gallons at $12.75 and four gallons at $17.00. Straight alcohol was obtained as a by-product of bottled malt beer from which the alcohol was extracted but with regular beer back on the market it soon lost its popularity.

While police continued to hunt for the stranger on a “John Doe” warrant, Arlie Carter was charged with resisting an officer, fined $25.00 or 20 days and was released after paying his fine. The “little green book” would continue to leave a lot of red faces in central North Dakota for weeks to come.

By Jim Davis


Foster County Independent February 1, 1934, page 1.

Devils Lake World February 7, 1934 page 1.