Bob Batchelor's Blog

October 28, 2019

100 Years Ago: Prohibition Becomes Law with Volstead Act

The Hamilton Daily News Announces Passage of “Dry Bill”





The Hamilton Daily News Announces Passage of “Dry Bill”













On October 28, 1919, the Senate voted to override the veto of President Woodrow Wilson. The United States would become a dry nation after ratification of the law in January 1920. The Volstead Act, enacted into law on October 28, 1919, defined the parameters of the Eighteenth Amendment. By passing the Volstead Act, Congress formally prohibited intoxicating beverages; regulated the sale, manufacture, or transport of liquor; but still ensured that alcohol could still be used for scientific, research, industrial, and religious practices.Legal enforcement of Prohibition began on January 17, 1920.









Chicago Tribune Editors Have Fun with a Witty Headline





Chicago Tribune Editors Have Fun with a Witty Headline













Why Did the US Go Dry? Chaos reigned in the early twentieth century. In America, the tumultuous era included millions of immigrants streaming into the nation, and then a protracted war that seemed apocalyptic. The backlash against the disarray sent some forces searching for normality. Liquor was an easy target. Supporters of dry law turned the consumption of alcohol into an indicator of widespread moral rot. Bob Batchelor, author of The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius (Diversion Books) is available for commentary and discussion of Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties. The Bourbon King is the epic tale of “Bootleg King” George Remus, who from his Gatsby-like mansion in Cincinnati, created the largest illegal liquor ring in American history. In today’s money, Remus built a bourbon empire of some $5 to $7 billion in just two and a half years.  









October 28, 1919, Headline in the Chicago Tribune





October 28, 1919, Headline in the Chicago Tribune













Quotes: George Remus: “My personal opinion had always been that the Volstead Act was an unreasonable, sumptuary law, and that it never could be enforced.”George Remus: “I knew it [the Volstead Act] was as fragile as tissue paper.”F. Scott Fitzgerald: “America was going on the grandest, gaudiest spree in history…The whole golden boom was in the air—its splendid generosities, its outrageous corruptions and the tortuous death struggle of the old America in prohibition.” From the essay “Early Success” (1937)Bob Batchelor: “Prohibition turned ordinary citizens into criminals. Media attention turned some criminals into Jazz Age icons. At the top of the heap stood those few, like George Remus, who took advantage of the new illegal booze marketplace to gain untold power and riches.”Bob Batchelor: “During Prohibition, ‘bathtub gin’ often contained substances that were undrinkable at best and deadly at worst. A band of rumrunners selling ‘Canadian’ whiskey were actually peddling toilet bowl cleaner. Tests on booze obtained in one raid revealed that the liquor contained a large volume of poison.”Bob Batchelor: “Remus may have been singularly violent and dangerous, but his utter disregard for Prohibition put him in accord with how much of American society felt about the dry laws. Within the government, the lack of resolve for enforcing Prohibition started at the top with President Warren G. Harding and his corrupt administration.” The Bourbon King
“Bob Batchelor’s The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius might as well be the outline of a Netflix or HBO series.” – Washington Independent Review of Books
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on October 28, 2019 06:09

October 6, 2019

92 Years Ago Today -- George Remus Murders Imogene in Cincinnati's Eden Park

92 years ago in 1927, George Remus murdered his wife Imogene in Eden Park, just outside Cincinnati. The gunshot that indian summer morning capped a tumultuous period of mayhem, betrayal, and embezzlement. The subsequent trial would be followed by millions worldwide!The accompanying February 1928 insanity trial transcripts provide insight into what Remus thought about his wife and the murder.

Below is a portion of the February 1928 insanity hearing transcript. Remus answers questions about his early days with Imogene and admits that they engaged in “illicit relations.”









February 1928 insanity hearing transcript — George Remus answers questions about his early days with Imogene — “illicit relations”





February 1928 insanity hearing transcript — George Remus answers questions about his early days with Imogene — “illicit relations”













Remus admits that he hoped to catch Imogene and Franklin Dodge together — so he could kill them both!









Remus admits that he hoped to catch Imogene and Franklin Dodge together — so he could kill them both!





Remus admits that he hoped to catch Imogene and Franklin Dodge together — so he could kill them both!













George claimed he married Imogene to bring her up from poverty…and that she owed him as a result. The betrayal with Dodge was too much. The affair and that it became common knowledge in the criminal underworld, disgraced him, and — in his mind — forced action.









George claimed he married Imogene to bring her up from poverty…and that she owed him as a result. The betrayal with Dodge was too much…





George claimed he married Imogene to bring her up from poverty…and that she owed him as a result. The betrayal with Dodge was too much…













Given his ability to manipulate juries, Remus declared he would defend himself, giving him direct access to the 12 people who held his life in their hands.









Bourbon King -Remus Mugshot Trial.jpg













Given his ability to manipulate juries, Remus declared he would defend himself, giving him direct access to the 12 people who held his life in their hands.

 
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on October 06, 2019 08:54

September 12, 2019

5 Minutes to Murder: George Remus, The Bourbon King

5 Minutes to Murder: George Remus, The Bourbon King
Historian Bob Batchelor discusses The Bourbon King outside the former Cincinnati hotel where "Bootleg King" George Remus stalked his wife Imogene, before murdering her in cold blood at Eden Park. 









Spring House -- Eden Park.jpg
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on September 12, 2019 08:11

September 6, 2019

Interview -- Lopate at Large with Leonard Lopate!

Interview — Lopate at Large, with Leonard LopateLove, murder, political intrigue, mountains of cash and rivers of bourbon—Bob Batchelor’s book The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition's Evil Genius is a journey into the dark heart of Prohibition and the man who made it work to his own advantage. Yes, Congress gave teeth to Prohibition in October 1919, but the law didn't stop Remus from amassing a fortune that would be worth billions of dollars today. As one Jazz Age journalist put it:
"Remus was to bootlegging what Rockefeller was to oil."
Join us for a discussion of George Remus with Bob Batchelor in this installment on Leonard Lopate at Large.Celebrating the book launch of The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius, Bob joined Leonard Lopate on the Leonard Lopate at Large radio show on WBAI Radio in New York.Link here!









Bob Batchelor , author of The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius ( Diversion Books ) on Lopate at Large with Leonard Lopate





Bob Batchelor, author of The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius (Diversion Books) on Lopate at Large with Leonard Lopate

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on September 06, 2019 11:52

September 3, 2019

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: The Real Ghost of Eden Park, Video

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: The Real Ghost of Eden Park, VideoFrom Cincinnati, Historian Bob Batchelor discusses the real ghost of Eden Park and the human toll of Prohibition, in the 1920s and today. 
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on September 03, 2019 11:40

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: The Murder, Video

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: The Murder, VideoThe Murder, Part II: From Cincinnati, Historian Bob Batchelor, author of The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition's Evil Genius (Diversion Books), discusses how George Remus chased down his wife Imogene and murdered her in Eden Park and then retraces their steps!There is a great deal of conflicting opinion about exactly where Remus and his driver, George Klug, ran Imogene and Ruth’s taxi off the road, even among eyewitnesses! I recreate the murder from the information I pieced together from those accounts. In any case, the murder took place along a 10 to 20 yard strip near Mirror Lake.










George Remus murdered Imogene in Eden Park, Cincinnati’s version of Central Park in the 1920s. The murder location is behind me in this photo, in this stretch of roadway.





George Remus murdered Imogene in Eden Park, Cincinnati’s version of Central Park in the 1920s. The murder location is behind me in this photo, in this stretch of roadway.

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on September 03, 2019 08:43

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: George Remus, Fitzgerald, and The Great Gatsby

The exterior of the Gatsby-like “Dream Palace.”





The exterior of the Gatsby-like “Dream Palace.”













Any truth to the idea that Remus inspired the main character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby?

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right about so many things about America in the 1920s. As he proclaimed, the decade truly stood as “the grandest, gaudiest spree in history.” George and Imogene Remus embodied this idea. Remus turned himself and Imogene into the King and Queen of the criminal underworld. Yet, like the nation itself, that opulent world would come crumbling down around them. Many features of The Great Gatsby sound as if they were ripped from the life of George Remus—the parties, the magnificent pool, a string of pharmacies that he opened, real books, bootlegging—but, and it’s an important point—these same traits were encompassed in several other prominent bootleg barons from the age, most notably Arnold Rothstein, the biggest player in the New York City underworld. [For more information about Rothstein, check out the masterful biography Rothstein by David Pietrusza, one of America’s finest historians.]After 17 years of thinking about George Remus and writing a biography of The Great Gatsby, the idea that Fitzgerald used Remus as a guide was intriguing, but needed much deeper analysis. Too frequently, historians, reporters, and writers made the assertion without any real proof. After sifting through thousands of pages of primary source material, traveling to Louisville to check into evidence at the Seelbach Hotel, and reading seemingly endless scholarly analyses about Gatsby, I surmise that Remus was most likely just one of a number of bootleg kings that Fitzgerald used to create the composite that later became Jay Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s movements in and around New York City and attending the grand parties on Long Island certainly provide evidence that Remus—half a country away in Cincinnati—would have been a lesser influence than the gangsters in the Big Apple that he could more readily read about and even know personally. The Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, however, makes its way into the novel. Gossip and rumors about the “King of the Bootleggers” certainly may have made their way to Fitzgerald, but there is no direct evidence that he traveled to Louisville after Prohibition became law. His time in the city had been as an officer trainee during the waning days of World War I. His escapades, including being kicked out of the hotel’s famous Rathskeller bar for being too inebriated, happened years earlier. Remus was in the public eye and the nation followed his exploits in the papers. Fitzgerald was a voracious reader and interpreter of the news. Over the years, though, the fable that George Remus was THE model for Jay Gatsby has gained momentum. Many writers and scholars make the claim without clear evidence, because that evidence does not exist, or at least hasn’t been uncovered yet. Until we have definitive proof, I think the best we can say is that Remus was A model, but not the sole model, for The Great Gatsby.

For a detailed analysis of the Fitzgerald/Gatsby/Remus connection, as well as information about other sources for Jay Gatsby, check out The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius (Diversion Books).











George, Imogene, and Ruth pose with their guests for a formal portrait inside the famous “Imogene Baths” prior to it opening on December 31, 1921. Reports estimate that Remus paid up to $175,000 for the Grecian swimming pool, lined with tile from Cincinnati’s famous Rookwood Pottery .





George, Imogene, and Ruth pose with their guests for a formal portrait inside the famous “Imogene Baths” prior to it opening on December 31, 1921. Reports estimate that Remus paid up to $175,000 for the Grecian swimming pool, lined with tile from Cincinnati’s famous Rookwood Pottery.

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on September 03, 2019 08:11

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: The Chase Leads to Murder, Video!

The Chase Leads to Murder!From Cincinnati, Historian Bob Batchelor discusses how George Remus chased down his wife Imogene and murdered her in Eden Park while also retracing the route through the city!


 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on September 03, 2019 06:51

September 2, 2019

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: Surprises in Writing the Book

 









George Remus (left), his flapper daughter Romola (middle), and co-counsel Charles H. Elston (right) sit at the defendant’s table during the sensational murder trial.





George Remus (left), his flapper daughter Romola (middle), and co-counsel Charles H. Elston (right) sit at the defendant’s table during the sensational murder trial.













 









Franklin L. Dodge, Jr., tried to keep his photo from the newspaper reporters that tracked his every step. As the national spotlight intensified, he would soon be outed.





Franklin L. Dodge, Jr., tried to keep his photo from the newspaper reporters that tracked his every step. As the national spotlight intensified, he would soon be outed.













 









Once the press got Dodge’s photo, he sat for a formal pose. Newspapers used this headshot most often when illustrating stories about the Bootleg King and his shenanigans.





Once the press got Dodge’s photo, he sat for a formal pose. Newspapers used this headshot most often when illustrating stories about the Bootleg King and his shenanigans.













 What Surprised You the Most about Writing The Bourbon King?

When it comes to the 1920s, what I discovered is that people love the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age and The Great Gatsby , but they hate Prohibition with a passion. As a result, a lot of materials regarding bootlegging and Volstead Act enforcement were destroyed or went missing. Combined with the basic fact that artifacts from 100 years ago simply don’t exist is the reality that in the intervening century, people threw away or destroyed things from the Prohibition era because of the general disgust with America’s failed social experiment. There are a handful of artifacts that I would grab if I could take a ride in the Tardis.On a personal level, many descendants of bootleggers have a hard time rectifying what their ancestors did during that time. Some families swear that they were never involved, even when proof clearly exists. Another surprising aspect was Franklin L. Dodge, Jr., the federal Prohibition Bureau secret agent who stole Imogene away and ran off with George’s riches. I had vague ideas about who he was and what he stood for. Then I visited the Turner-Dodge House in Lansing, Michigan, where Dodge grew up and lived later after Remus killed Imogene, and got a whole new perspective. I stood in his boyhood bedroom and walked the upstairs ballroom where he and his family held celebrations and his mother—a classically-trained pianist—played for friends and family members. Dodge became a real person as a result of walking in his steps. That humanity—with all the frailties that being human encompasses—went into my portrayal of him in The Bourbon King. Research reveals the complexity of historical figures, which enables a more contextual and critical examination.  
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on September 02, 2019 08:11

September 1, 2019

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: Imogene, Femme Fatale or Pawn in Remus’s Evil World?

 









Imogene Remus sits for a formal portrait in her finest fur shawl and feathered hat. Her stunning diamond wedding ring is prominently displayed, which may indicate that this photo was taken shortly after she and George were married in Newport, Kentucky, on June 25, 1920.





Imogene Remus sits for a formal portrait in her finest fur shawl and feathered hat. Her stunning diamond wedding ring is prominently displayed, which may indicate that this photo was taken shortly after she and George were married in Newport, Kentucky, on June 25, 1920.























The exterior of the Gatsby-like “Dream Palace.”





The exterior of the Gatsby-like “Dream Palace.”













Imogene Remus — Femme Fatale or Pawn in Remus’s Evil World?

Imogene Remus is one of the trickiest characters in The Bourbon King. Imogene’s motivations and subsequent actions enabled her to easily transition to whatever a situation necessitated. Imogene could be browbeaten housewife or femme fatale at a moment’s notice. On one hand, her desires were base and gaudy, but she also masterminded a complex scheme to funnel much of her husband’s wealth to herself and family members. Unlike other accounts of George and Imogene, my research revealed how devious she had been from the start of her relationship with her husband. Much of Imogene’s early life had never been uncovered, particularly the lengths she went to attract a modicum of fame. Yet, at the same time, Imogene played a dangerous game, dancing on the edge of a cliff. She may have thought she understood George, but in the end, she had no clue to the depths of violence and anger Remus could unleash. Imogene grew up in Milwaukee dreaming of a life bigger and more glamorous than her working class roots. What I found in researching her life is that she was constantly playing with her identity by using different names, from “Gussie” and “Gene” to “Susan” and others. Trying these names and different identities on like masks, Imogene hoped to become wildly famous and rich, living out an aristocratic life that she saw around her. I also uncovered a number of crazy attempts Imogene made to get her name in the newspapers, which was one of the best ways to increase notoriety in the early twentieth century. She would send “news” to reporters, and for someone with no formal training, had several pieces picked up. For example, around the time the story broke about her breaking up George’s first marriage, using the name “Gene Holmes,” she had a list of tips for a wife to follow to keep her husband from “becoming a wild man.” Reporters who ran the story did not miss the irony of the highly-publicized “love triangle” that had been in the papers for months. Even more overtly, Imogene told a friend shortly after Remus moved in with her that she planned to “roll him for his roll” and that she “would marry him if I have to” to get his money. George was already famous, flashy, and probably looked like a great catch for Imogene. She won him over and eventually got all the riches in the world. However, she couldn’t have had any idea at that time what a depraved person he would become.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on September 01, 2019 08:11