The LaMontages brothers were high society bootleggers during National Prohibition (1920-1933). There were four brothers – Rene, Montaigu, William and Morgan.
The LaMontages brothers were descendants of affluent French vintners and inherited their father’s company. They were also 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 champion 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. 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 the pressure. She said “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. It sentenced three of them to four months in prison and one to two months.
National Prohibition failed miserably. Of course, it didn’t stop illegal drinking. On the other hand, it caused many serious problems. As a result, voters rejected it by three to one.
Surprisingly, in spite of that, many people and organizations today support neo-prohibition ideas. They also strongly defend the many vestiges of Prohibition that continue.
In fact, almost one of every five U.S. adults favor making drinking alcohol illegal. And for all ages and purposes! Not even National Prohibition (1920-1933) did that. For example, millions of people drank alcohol legally. Discover what Prohibition did and didn’t outlaw. You’ll be surprised!
Resources on the LaMontages Brothers
- Allsop, K. The Bootleggers. London: Hutchinson, 1999.
- Cherrington, E. The Anti-Saloon Yearbook. Westerville, OH: Am Issue Pub, 1924, p. 157.
- Gordon, E. The Wrecking of the Eighteenth Amendment. Francestown, NH. Alco Info Press, 1943, p. 279.
- Kobler, J. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. NY: Putnam’s Sons, 1993.
- Rich bootleggers sent to prison. Lit Digest, Feb 24, 1923.
- Willebrandt, M. The Inside of Prohibition. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1929.