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. They inherited their father’s company. And they were also members of exclusive social clubs in Manhattan and Long Island.
The brothers were related by marriage to Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University. One brother was a graduate of Yale, another was a champion polo player. All were listed in the Social Register.
Through their bootlegging, the brothers increased their fortunes by $2,000,000 a year. 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. 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.” (See her book below.)
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.
President Coolidge restored the citizenship rights of LaMontages brothers. They had lost them because of their convictions. In spite of the convictions, the Social Register continued to list them for several years.
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.
Yet today 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!