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Once a Floating Speakeasy, This Shipwreck Tells a Tale of Bullets and Booze

The “Keuka” sank in 1932, just three years after its grand opening as a dance hall, roller rink and illicit speakeasy party boat. On January 17, 1920, the United States ran dry. It was the beginning of Prohibition, which banned the manufacture, transport, and sale of alcohol. In New York City alone, authorities shut down 15,000 bars. But the government’s plan to temper the nation’s drinking backfired spectacularly.

“We were tired of great causes,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1931 essay “Echoes of the Jazz Age.” “The wildest of all generations, the generation which had been adolescent during the confusion of the war, … danced into the limelight.” The dawn of the decade, the author later reflected, saw America embark on “the greatest, gaudiest spree in history.”

For those willing to run afoul of the law, selling liquor to the real-life denizens who inspired The Great Gatsby and other tales of Roaring Twenties excess promised to be highly profitable. Partying during Prohibition meant keeping the barrels of booze flowing and the hidden speakeasies abundantly stocked… read more >

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