Historically speaking, there is one inescapable fact, the Bahamas, has profited immensely from various forms of smuggling. From pirates in the 1600s to drug smugglers in the 1980s, the islands have proved to be, both a haven and a valuable shipping point. In the 1920s to 1933, fortunes were made from smuggling liquor.

At the turn of the 20th century, the colony, was sinking fast. Industry after industry were being negatively affected. A blight had killed the citrus fruit production. Locally produced sisal was competing with sisal produced in the Yucatan, and losing. More interesting, was the role Germany played in the economy of the Bahamas. Germany, bought Bahamian sponges and tortoise shells. After Germany lost World War I, it had no more money to buy luxury foreign goods.

The colony, was as dead as could be, with debt mounting year upon year.

(The Indianapolis Star, Monday 22 August 1921)

Shoeless Negroes and Sweaty Americans

“The mounting imports continued to mount. They imported twice as much whiskey in January, 1921, as they did in June, 1920. they kept ordering large consignments in February and March. They enlarged their figures in April and May. Whiskey had the call in the states. Whiskey became king in Nassau.

A negro, unable to read or write, would come into a Bay Street wholesalers hatless, shoeless, and all but shirtless.

“Boss man, please, suh gimme a hundred cases of Scotch.”

He’d produce an inspiring role of American money.

“An’ please boss man, suh, make the bill read a dollah mo’ fo’ each case than you charges me.”

“Your rakeoff, hey?”

“Yessuh, please.”

Or a sweating American would come bustling in

“Can you let me have 2000 cases of whiskey – rye and Scotch, 50-50 at West End, Grand Bahama, day after tomorrow?”

“No but you can have it on the wharf here, in Nassau. That’s where our interest ends.”

“Alright, how much?”

A little figuring, and then the answer.

“$50,000.”

“Fair enough.”

And the money would be transferred next morning on the dock—-cash.”

(The Indianapolis Star, Monday 22 August 1921)


1925 – Tourists Begin To Come in Droves To Drink

By 1925, tourism was experiencing incredible highs. It had nothing to do with beaches and sun or historical buildings. Americans could have cared less about that. The most fantastic, alcohol-fuelled parties were happening in the Bahamas, and the whole world wanted to be a part of it. Winter season tourism, suddenly became all year tourism, thanks to hundreds of thousands of bottles of whisky and scotch, and good old American Puritanism.

(The Miami News Sunday 27 December 1925)


1920 – Governor, Sir William L. Allardyce announces a revenue and employment transformation

The transformation in the fortunes of the Bahamas was almost instantaneous, if not miraculous. More money was in circulation than ever before. In terms of economics, it was a sellers market, and the Bahamas was open for business every day and every hour of the week. Americans came with big money. Bahamians took every dollar happily.

Prohibition began on January 16, 1920 when the American’s Eighteenth Amendment came into effect. Some 1,520 Federal Prohibition agents were given the job of enforcing the new anti-alcohol law.

By February 1920, government revenue from liquor imports was looking more like a money tree had suddenly sprung up behind government house. There was so much cash coming in that Governor Allardyce said that other duties could now be reduced. It all happened that quickly.

(The Star Gazette Monday February 16, 1920)
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