The Corn Sugar Connection
The heat was definitely on, and Chicago bootleggers departed in droves for Miami. The general hysteria began to worry cooler heads, among them the Prohibition Commissioner, Dr. James Doran. A professional chemist and head man in the Federal department charged with enforcing prohibition laws, Dr. Doran knew better than anyone how the liquor traffic operated.
This unfortunate business involving the Hubinger corn sugar factory at Keokuk, and those wealthy Italian entrepreneurs was most distressing. Unfolding, as it was, in the shadow of the Illinois State Capitol, the investigation was fraught with potential for sticky political repercussions if not nicely handled. Chicago bank stocks had been sliding and even the nation’s stock markets were reacting badly. He was also aware of the pressure on Congress to do something foolish, so he boldly ripped the lid off of one of the best-kept secrets in the trade: “Ninety-five per cent of the whiskey consumed in the United States,” he told reporters “is made from corn sugar.” The good doctor then explained how moonshiners discovered that corn sugar was not only several cents a pound cheaper than cane sugar but was far more practical and the primary source of moonshine, with a 95% market share.
At least 25 million bushels of corn were needed to fill 1928 demand for corn sugar, and it was “generally conceded” that the new moonshiner market was a large factor in boosting corn prices. Reporters observed that the dry Middle West corn belt, largely responsible for the enactment of prohibition, owed much of its present measure of prosperity to the widespread violation of that very law. Now the cat was out of the bag, but way too late.
Frustrated for years by arrogant scofflaws, reviled as bigots by the wet press, belittled and shamed in such popular novels as Elmer Gantry, and ridiculed at the Tennessee “Monkey Trial” and elsewhere by the likes of H.L. Mencken, the drys were not going to let pass this opportunity to exploit the famous massacre.
Coming up: The Five and Ten
Read this in Portuguese at my other blog.
 (CT 2/18/29 6)
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