In honor of Repeal Day, which celebrates the end of America's "noble experiment" in banning alcoholic beverages, Reason TV is happy to introduce you to George Cassiday, a man whose life and work should be taught to every schoolkid—and to every member of Congress hell-bent on legislating the nation's morals.
From 1920 through 1930—the thick of the Prohibition era—Cassiday supplied illegal liquor throughout the halls of Congress. Known as "The Man in the Green Hat," Cassiday was the Capitol's highest-profile bootlegger, with a client list that included senior members of the Republican and Democratic Parties. How instrumental was he to the D.C. power elite? He even had his own office in the House and Senate office buildings.
Cassiday gave up the liquor trade after his arrest in 1930, but gained notoriety by penning a series of front-page articles for The Washington Post about his days as Congress' top bottle man.
Though he never named names, Cassiday's stories detailed every aspect of his former business—and the depths of hypocrisy in Washington. By his own estimation, "four out of five senators and congressmen consume liquor either at their offices or their homes." Appearing days before the 1930 mid-term elections, Cassiday's revelations caused a national stir and helped sweep pro-Prohibitionist—and ostensibly tee-totaling—congressmen and senators out of power.
Today, with the rise of cocktail culture and prohibition-vogue in full swing, Cassiday's life and legacy are being re-discovered. Through books such as Garrett Peck's Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren't to New Columbia Distillery's Green Hat Gin, the remarkable story of George Cassiday—"The Man in the Green Hat"—is again being told.
Reason TV spoke with Cassiday's son, Fred, author Garrett Peck, and New Columbia Distillery's John Uselton to discuss George Cassiday and the end of Prohibition.
Shot, edited, and produced by Meredith Bragg. About 4:30 minutes.