Friday, April 15, 2016

Family In The News: Entrepreneur? Bootlegger? Businessman? Was Julius Albers Being Neighborly?

      The newspaper archives continue to overflow with interesting pieces of family history.  Recently I decided to try out a data subscription to, which includes access to  So, of course, I immediately went after more discoveries to share.  But to keep my searching organized, I came up with a list of obituaries that are missing from genealogy.  The first name on that list was Julius  Albers, my father’s maternal uncle.   I input his name and death date as my first search.  Voila!  I was happy to see his obituary that provides more family history.  But also popping up in my search were a few unexpected family stories carrying the Albers surname.  Don’t you just love the newspapers!  
      For instance, among those news summaries tempting me with their highlighted family names I found a 1945 article about Julius’ son, Roy Albers, who was awarded a Purple Heart while fighting in France in World War II.  The story has an interesting slant.  But I’ll wait until Veteran’s Day to tell that one.  For now, a juicy article caught my attention that concerns a “business venture” of Julius Albers'.   This news appeared in the Indianapolis Star, Wednesday, 4 Jan 1933 (On Page 1, by the way).  Here’s the news I found:
Trade Food For Whisky
Husbands' Raids on Family Larders Lead to Arrest of Alleged Bootlegger

The barter and swap movement, seen as a solution to the problem of what to use for money, has been extended to the liquor business.  On complaint of several house wives who went ofAlbers, Julius H., News, 1933 the cupboard and found it bare, police conducted an investigation which led to the arrest yesterday afternoon of Julius Albers, 1849 Zwingley Avenue.  Police assert that Albers is a pioneer in the barter and swap speakeasy movement.
Food Stores Missing
A missing jar of preserves, a glass of jelly, filched from the family larder and mayhap a chicken from the backyard coop, served as the medium of exchange for a jug of liquor.  When housewives in the neighborhood wondered how their husbands obtained liquor without money, they coupled this strange fact with the mysterious disappearance of food supplies, got their heads together and then told Sergt John Eisenhut of a police squad about it.
With Patrolmen Statesman and Fulton, Sergt Eisenhut kept an eye on the home of Albers and the raid yesterday resulted.  Police said they confiscated two pints of whisky.  Albers was chrged with operating a blind tiger.
     Let’s think about the situation in those times. Both the Great Depression and Prohibition were having an effect on people’s lives.  Money was scarce and if they could afford an occasional beer or a cocktail, they couldn’t buy it at their local store or a corner bar.  I can imagine why many people grew grapes and made their own wine along with their jam.   Well,  Julius Albers evidently was helping to solve the lack of alcohol problem in his neighborhood. In my own opinion, my grand uncle was providing for the working class people around him a taste of what was available to those in the wealthier neighborhoods and even in the White House.   It is well known that doctors around the country earned millions from whiskey prescriptions. Also, it was legal to make wine and cider from fruit in your home for personal use, but not beer.  The Prohibition law did not prohibit consumption of alcohol, only the sale of alcohol. Many people who had the means to do so stockpiled wines and liquors for their personal use in the latter part of 1919 before sales of alcoholic beverages became illegal in January 1920.
     As confirmed by his obituary, Julius Albers was employed during these years at the E. C. Atkins Saw Works in Indianapolis.  So, he may have been more fortunate economically than some of his neighbors.  He was able to produce whisky somehow and barter for whatever the locals had to trade for his product.  I don’t know the final outcome of these charges against him. Maybe confiscation of his whisky and a strong warning were enough to satisfy the local police. I wonder if there were attorneys skilled in representing these types of clients and if he was able to acquire one. 
     Prohibition ended twelve months after this incident.   As stated on Wikipedia: “On December 5, 1933, ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment. However, United States federal law still prohibits the manufacture of distilled spirits without meeting numerous licensing requirements that make it impractical to produce spirits for personal beverage use.”
     The search for family history never fails to produce surprises.  Or maybe, if we stop to analyze them, these circumstances aren’t really that surprising!  
    Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties,
Research links and related posts:
Prohibition in the United States
The Great Depression
Descendants of Charles and Martha (Marsischky) Albers
Charles H. Albers, 1865 - 1915

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