White Powder, USA, 1929


The new Republican President never touched liquor before his March, 1929 swearing-in ceremony. Indeed, nearly three decades earlier he palmed off all hospitality cordials on his Chinese interpreter, who sometimes had trouble navigating after Hoover’s visits to hosts.

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Chapter 43

White Powder

In New York there was something of a stir when, Superintendent of Banks Warder suddenly resigned his post and was replaced by Joseph A. Broderick. Awkward questions were being raised before a grand jury in connection with the handsome sums Mr. Warder had been receiving quite apart from his salary as a public official. So awkward were the questions and vexing the official secrecy surrounding Mr. Warder’s beneficiary, the failed City Trust bank, that Manufacturers Trust cancelled its planned takeover of the institution. City Trust’s depositors had no such easy way out.[1]

Two federal agents paid a discreet visit to the Hubinger corn sugar plant in Keokuk, Iowa, on February 23, but left with the impression that the plant owners had not grasped the seriousness of the situation. The presence of federal agents at the Hubinger corn sugar factory was not reported, but the sentencing of the former mayor of Herrin to two years at Leavenworth for alcohol was widely covered. On Capitol Hill, the Jones Five and Ten bill passed the House February 28 and became law March 3. Herbert Hoover was inaugurated the following day promising vigorous enforcement of every such law.[2]

The U.S. Embassy in London continued to assemble newspaper clippings on the Naarden narcotics conspiracy and send them to the State Department, while the London Times praised the U.S. government for helping to stamp out opium traffic even as the League of Nations rushed in to claim it’s share of the credit.[3] The grand jury probe ground on and the House voted to investigate federal judge Winslow—with the Senate first horning in on the act, then blocking the investigation entirely.

On the Teapot Dome front, Edward Lawrence Doheney Jr.—the oilman’s son who had allegedly delivered $100,000 to Interior Secretary Albert Fall—was murdered by his personal secretary who immediately shot himself February 16.[4] On the income tax front, beleaguered Staten Island brewer J.J. Dunne was indicted for income tax evasion and former judge Nash Rockwood pled guilty to the same charge.[5] Back of all this lurked the latest round of WWI reparations talks. Germany now sought to blackmail American investors by holding private loans hostage to a reduction in reparations payments awarded to the European Allies.[6]

Excerpted by permission from Prohibition and the Crash by J Henry Phillips

[1] (NY World Almanac 1930 98, 99) (NYT 3/2/29 7)

[2] (Lawrence 1929 97; 119) (Docket 11070 4) (NY World Almanac 1930 100; 1931 358) (Hoover 1929 1974 2-10)

[3] (Taylor 1969 231f) (NYT 2/19/29 2:1; 2/21/29 12)

[4] (NY World Almanac 1930 99)

[5] (NYT 2/21/29 2; 3/3/29 9; 2/27/29 48, 25:2; 3/26/29 33)

[6] (NYT 2/13/29 1, 6; 2/22/29 1)

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