Saint Paul, Minnesota, was a notorious haven for gangsters and bootleggers, thanks to a corrupt arrangement with the municipal police force. Throughout the Prohibition-era, the city was filled with speakeasies and alcohol flowed freely. A bizarre relic from that time was unexpectedly discovered in an abandoned storeroom of Saint Paul’s Ancker Hospital: a stash of 70 large jugs of dark, colored liquid labeled as perfume. Was it possible for skilled bootleggers to distill cheap perfume into 100 proof booze? In this episode, we’ll follow the clues that lead to a small St. Paul cosmetics company accused by the federal authorities of participating in a vast national conspiracy to smuggle alcohol. That accusation ruined lives and drove the company out of business. Yet the guilt or innocence of the company’s owner remains uncertain. In proposing a solution to this intriguing Prohibition mystery, we’ll also uncover the wider effects of the federal government’s ambitious attempt to regulate public “vice.”  

Music and FX Credits

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