This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 print, $9.95 Kindle and also as an ebook from itunes, Kobo, and Scribd for $9.95. Also from Tolino in Germany. It’s fixed format so it’s better with a tablet, laptop, or computer.
Izzy and Moe
After the 18th amendment went into effect at 12:01 A.M. January 17th, 1920, 16,000 saloons in New York City went out of business and were replaced by anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 speakeasies. With only 1500 agents in the whole country, a woefully understaffed Bureau of Prohibition was tasked with enforcing the unenforceable. But Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith, prohibition agents extraordinaire, made a comic opera and highly successful attempt.
“Dere’s sad news here. You’re under arrest.” Those were the words used by Izzy and Moe when they pinched violators of the Volstead Act. The sad news was heard by 4932 people between 1920 and 1925, with an extraordinary 95% conviction rate.
Isador Einstein was born in Tarnow, Poland, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, circa 1880 and emigrated to New York in 1901. The 1920 census shows him as a mail sorter for the Post Office. He applied for a job as a prohibition agent in 1920. Five foot five and 225 pounds he didn’t look the part but he convinced James Shevlin, head of the southern New York Bureau that he could blend in. He was fluent in Yiddish, Polish, German, and Hungarian, and could get by in French, Russian, and Italian. He could play the violin and trombone, too. Continue reading