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Rum Row



: Bootleg fleet Within months of the
onset of Prohibition on January 16, 1920, organized crime
had set up floating
liquor markets, or "Rum Rows," all the way down
the Atlantic coast and along the Gulf of Mexico.
Flotillas of rumrunners rode the swells just beyond
the three-mile limit, where they were safe from Coast
Guard interference, and awaited the arrival of small
speedboats belonging to bootleggers who figured
they could load up with booze and outrace a govern-
ment cutter to shore.
Eventually these fleets stood off Boston, New
York, Norfolk, Savannah, Tampa, Mobile, New
Orleans and Galveston, but the most important Rum
Row stretched from Maine down to New Jersey.
European goods, especially Scotch, were unloaded
here, as well as huge quantities of liquor from
Canada.
Easily the most famous rumrunner of the day was
the founder of the New England/Mid-Atlantic Rum
Row, Captain William McCoy, whose goods were
always first-rate and unadulterated — thus both he
and his contraband liquor became known as "The
Real McCoy." McCoy preferred serving the New
York area because that was where the money was.
One of his prime customers was Joe Adonis, who
handled the imports for the Broadway Mob headed
by himself, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello and
Meyer Lansky. The Broadway Mob supplied good
whiskey to all the speakeasies in Manhattan, and
while it was common for some importers to duel
with the government gunboats known as rum-
chasers, the Adonis fleet seemed for some reason to
have less trouble than others. Part of this good for-
tune appears attributable to Frank Costello who was
already functioning as a fixer for the mob.
Rum Rows, which included every type of vessel
afloat from old fishing boats to luxury cruisers and
yachts, remained an embarrassment to law enforcment
The U.S. Coast Guard ambushes a small boat trying to
bring booze ashore from "Rum Row."
for the life of Prohibition, strikingly visible confirma-
tion that Prohibition was too profitable and served too
many customers to ever be enforceable.