Dakota Datebook

Prohibition and Canadian Booze

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Today there is a lot in the news concerning border crossings and the illegal flow of drugs and immigration into the United States. This is not a new problem.

When North Dakota entered the Union in 1889 it was a dry state. Alcohol was banned. So, when Prohibition was adoption nationally, North Dakota was not as affected as many other states, but there was always a tendency for North Dakotans to tap their northern neighbor when the need for a little celebration arose. The export liquor houses on the north side of the border were always happy to supply the drink, and the warehouses were well stocked. Prior to Prohibition it was not illegal to transport alcohol through the state, and established routes transferred beer and liquor from Canadian distilleries to states south and east of North Dakota.

In 1921, to offset the flow of illegal booze into the United State during Prohibition, the Canadian government announced they would enforce a council order to ban the export of liquor beginning December 19th. Because of this, it was noted that the export houses were quickly draining their supplies. At the beginning of November, the liquor warehouses in Saskatchewan held 21,000 gallons of Scotch, rye whiskey and straight alcohol. In a two week time period, that had dwindled to 15,000 gallons. A Winnipeg newspaper speculated that by the end of the month there would be no more booze in these warehouses, it will all be in the United States.

On this date a string of eight automobiles laden with whiskey, which had left Regina, Saskatchewan heading for the thirsty customers in the states, was winding its way on the back roads of North Dakota. With Canadian officials unable to stop them, they plowed through the recent winter snows heading south like a fleet of battleships. The storms had caused a slump in the trade, but with the ground freezing and the prairie trails once again becoming passable, the bootleggers were wasting no time in transporting their goods to North Dakota and on into Minnesota. Soon bootleggers would run afoul of the law on both sides of the border, but for the next thirty days the flow of booze from Canada became a flood.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis


The Cando Herald, November 17, 1921

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

« Go Back

Award-winning radio, television, and public media services that educate, involve, and inspire the people of the prairie region.

Donate Now

Breaking News

Follow Us On Social Media