Amid 1918 Pandemic, Bootleg Whiskey Became a Respectable Medicine

When the flu began to invade the United States in 1918, a frightened nation sought an unproven but familiar remedy: whiskey. There was just one problem. More than half of the states had adopted prohibition laws at the time, making alcohol difficult to obtain, if not impossible, at times.

While the citizens of the so-called dry states argued for whiskey to prevent or treat the deadly virus, some ingenious officials found a solution: Free the vast reserves of contraband alcohol that had been confiscated since the entry into force of the laws. national laws. Although some of this contraband was simply poured down the drain, much of it remained locked up as evidence or perhaps for possible repeal.

Newspapers in the United States have reported that military doctors were administering confiscated whiskey from army camps hard hit by the flu. In Richmond, Virginia, two rail cars were reported to have rolled into the besieged Camp Lee. At Camp Dodge, Iowa, where more than 500 soldiers have already died, hundreds of pints have been sent to fight the flu, the newspapers reported.

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