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Liquor Laden Autos


On January 17, 1920, the United States went dry as the manufacture and sale of intoxicating alcohol was banned. 1,500 Federal law enforcement officers were tasked with enforcement. The force was not nearly big enough. In 1922, the head of the Prohibition Commission declared a crisis in the federal enforcement efforts. Commissioner Haynes said he needed an additional nine million dollars for the following fiscal year if his department was to have any hope of enforcing prohibition. He had increased his force to 3,500 agents and was getting good cooperation from state and local law enforcement agencies. He also said the courts were imposing longer jail sentences and stiffer fines. Haynes reported that in the fiscal year ending the June 30th, there had been over 20,000 convictions for violations of the prohibition law.

North Dakota had incorporated prohibition into the State Constitution when it entered the Union in 1889 and was familiar with prohibition violations. The state was home to numerous “blind pigs” where illegal liquor was sold. Even law enforcement officials were occasionally involved. In 1910, the Police Commissioner in Mandan was found guilty of allowing liquor sales in a building he owned.

On this date in 1922 the Fargo Forum reported on the seizure of two liquor laden cars. Acting on a tip from Minneapolis, police and federal agents searched local garages for two cars, a Case and a Ford. They found the Case at Schrans Garage in Moorhead. It contained 100 gallons of pure alcohol. The officers noticed liquid dripping from another vehicle. It turned out to be 35 gallons of pure alcohol. This was the largest seizure of alcohol in the area. Garage manager John Schrans denied any knowledge of the cars or the liquor. He told police that the cars showed up when he was absent.

Still looking for the Ford, the Police decided to check all the area hotels. When they arrived at the Allen Hotel in Moorhead, they learned that four men fled from their rooms when the police arrived. It was determined that the Ford police sought was their getaway car. The bootleggers were never found.

Dakota Datebook Written by Carole Butcher


Fargo Forum. “Dry Law Fight Crisis Here, Says Haynes.” 12 December, 1922.

Fargo Forum. “Liquor Laden Autos Seized.” 13 December, 1922.

The Mandan Historical Society. “The Battle with the Bottle.” "http://www.mandanhistory.org/areahistory/prohibitioninmandan.html" http://www.mandanhistory.org/areahistory/prohibitioninmandan.html Accessed 15 November, 2016.