Today, 16 January 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the start of Prohibition, a 13-year experiment in honing the skills of bathtub brewers, bootleggers, counterfeiters, and illicit supply chains.
A year after its ratification, the 18th Amendment went into force. It changed the trajectory of the Carl family business, bottle recycling. Bottle recycling was a good gig in St. Louis. The city was full of breweries and other businesses that relied on glass bottles. Wagons collected the empty bottles, which were sorted in a warehouse, and then sold back to the manufacturers. The Carl’s were green way before it was cool.
Prohibition took a big bite out of the bottle recycling business, so the family added distribution of “intoxicating liquors” to the portfolio, eventually leading to a stay in Leavenworth for one of the brothers, and a family rift that never fully healed.
Researching this part of my family history involved newspapers, St. Louis Police Archives, records of the FBI, records of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eastern Division of the Eastern District of Missouri, and Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, the latter two record sets via the National Archives in Kansas City.
Image: Carl Bottle Company horse-drawn wagon. Date unknown, likely late 19teens, early 1920s. Max Carl on the far right.