Headlines of Yore

That time Bookbinder’s was raided for $50k in contraband

It was the early stages of Prohibition when federal agents discovered 358 cases of alcohol in the Old City bar.

The facade of the former Old City bar Bookbinder's, which survived two Prohibition raids.

The facade of the former Old City bar Bookbinder's, which survived two Prohibition raids.

(Emma Lee/WHYY)
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Did you know one of the nation’s biggest Prohibition raids took place in a raucous Philly watering hole?

It was the infancy of Prohibition — August 1921 to be exact — when federal agents raided the historic Old City bar Boobkinder’s to seize $50K worth of booze. Allegedly, that equaled 358 cases of gin, whiskey, vermouth, and absinthe.

The Inquirer dubbed it the “biggest cache ever seized” under the Volstead Act, which was the constitutional amendment that outlawed the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol.

Though a veritable who’s who of the early 1900s — from president Theodore Roosevelt to Cornelius Vanderbilt — dined at the Philly institution, owner Emmanuel Bookbinder still was arrested.

Bookbinder’s legal team claimed the booze was legal and raised objections about the government’s search warrant but he was still convicted, serving less than a year in a New Jersey prison.

The kicker: Bookbinder’s was raided again in 1925. That time, it was a “wild party” that did the bar in.

Follow the thread below for a healthy amount of intrigue and contraband.

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