Michigan was no slouch during Prohibition, which lasted from 1920-1933. According to The Detroit News, when it came to bootlegging, a/k/a making illegal booze, Detroit was tops.

The Detroit River was the major route for the alcohol smuggling activities which helped make bootlegging the second biggest industry in the state next to auto manufacturing. Sleds and cars that drove over the ice kept it going during winter.

Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, and Detroit River helped supply the entire United States with illegal alcohol. There were many ingenious ways the alcohol was smuggled: in metal cylinders, underneath boats, and even a pipeline.

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Speakeasies and Blind Pigs – places where customers could buy and drink illegal booze - turned up all over the place, up to 25,000 of 'em in the city. Ice cream and soft drink counters slyly slipped spiked drinks to the adults and various parking lots contained secluded vehicles where one could buy a quick shot.

Tommy's Detroit Bar & Grill is one of the most famous and historic bars in Detroit. The building was built in 1840 and it shows. Not only was Tommy's a favorite speakeasy, but the cellar was also part of the Underground Railroad. Those cellar tunnels were later used in the 1920s to smuggle illegal alcohol from Canada into the United States.

Sitting at 8427 W. Jefferson Avenue in Detroit's Delray neighborhood sits the deserted Ideal Bar. This old tavern was once the hangout of Michigan's infamous Purple Gang (the #1 force behind all of Michigan's illegal alcohol) who used the facility for rumrunning and harboring illegal booze. There was an underground tunnel that started from a dock behind the bar on the Rouge River and into a warehouse where the booze was transported. The booze was shipped from Canada, down the river, and to the warehouse. Closed since the mid-1980s, the bar still stands. The bar has a basement and a sub-basement that could have been used for storing the illegal alcohol.

Then, it all stopped in 1933, much to the delight of everyone who didn't have to sneak around anymore. But – that was part of the fun.

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The Purple Gang

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