What was Buffalo’s Legacy During the Prohibition Era? | Crime
Many of us never experienced Prohibition, but we’ve heard about it or read about it. Many think almost automatically of Chicago, but Buffalo has its own contribution to Prohibition. The prohibition of liquor was enacted January 16, 1919 by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and repealed by the Twenty-First amendment on December 5, 1933.
William “Wild Bill” Donovan and Buffalo NY could be likened to Eliot Ness and Chicago IL, in that he sought to enforce prohibition laws in Buffalo making a name for himself in the process, however, Donovan’s success wasn’t that of Ness’s. Donovan didn't make any friends in the city with his actions as DA.
Buffalo NY was the birthplace of William “Wild Bill” Donovan born on New Year’s Day in 1883. He came from a family of devoutly Catholic Irish immigrants, which influenced him to want to become a priest.
Donovan attended St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and Niagara University. He continued his studies at Columbia University, where he was a star athlete on the football team and a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. In 1907, Donovan graduated from Columbia Law School and entered private practice.
Donovan eventually made his way back to Buffalo where he accomplished the task of gaining the prestigious title of District Attorney. He later aspired to become the Governor of New York. A race many believe he lost because of the events that took place right here in Buffalo.
But to truly understand why one must understand Buffalo during the Pohibition era. According to an article in The Buffalonian by Stephen Powell he describes Buffalo and their affinity for the drink like this:
The Buffalo of the 1920's was a decidedly wet heavily industrialized Northeastern city. There was a dominant German culture here that was reflected in the amount of beer Buffalonians brewed and consumed. As Prohibition rolled in, the Northeastern industrialized cities continued to drink rivers of booze even though it was against the law to possess it. Buffalo was known as a big drinking town. In 1908 alone, this city of Buffalo, NY pumped out over 31 million gallons of beer. Every bit of it was drank locally, none went to waste. So much beer was made there that you could run it over Niagara Falls for over a minute and a half!
So when exactly did Buffalonians turn on their native son? Check out the full article at What was Buffalo’s legacy during the Prohibition era