The LaMontages Brothers

The LaMontages brothers -- Rene, Montaigu, William and Morgan -- were high society bootleggers during National Prohibition (1920-1933). Descendants of affluent French vintners and inheritors of their father's company, they were members of exclusive social clubs in Manhattan and Long Island. The brothers were related by marriage to Nicholas Murray Butler, the president of Columbia University. One brother was a graduate of Yale, another was a championship polo player and all were listed in the Social Register.

Through their bootlegging operation the brothers increased their fortunes by $2,000,000 a year. However, they provided the Champagne for a party at one of their elite clubs and a disgruntled employee of their company reported the event to the U.S. district attorney‘s office. The employee claimed that several federal officials were accomplices but was unable to name them.

The New York Times reported that "high society has been shocked." Many socially prominent people came to the aid of the LaMontages brothers. The Assistant Attorney General, Mabel Willibrand reported that "every conceivable political and personal appeal, including an appeal by a Cabinet officer, was made to squash the case."

In 1923, the federal court fined each LaMontages brother $2,000 and sentenced three of them to four months in prison and one to two months.

President Coolidge restored the citizenship rights the LaMontages brothers had lost because of their convictions and, in spite of the convictions, the Social Register continued to list them until 1929.

Widespread bootlegging, the growth of organized crime, violence, and many other problems resulting from the failure of National Prohibition led the American public to reject it by two-to-one.

Surprisingly, in spite of that, many people and organizations today support neo-prohibition ideas and strongly defend the many vestiges of Prohibition that continue to exist.

References and Resources on the LaMontages Brothers:

  • Allsop, Kenneth. The Bootleggers. London: Hutchinson, 1961.
  • Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1973.
  • Rich bootleggers sent to prison. Literary Digest, February 24, 1923.
  • Willebrandt, Mabel Walker. The Inside of Prohibition. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1929.
  • The LaMontages Brothers.
  • Rene LaMontages.
  • William LaMontages.
  • Morgan LaMontages.
  • Montaigu LaMontages.

Filed Under: Biography