First Draft Follies: The "Dry" Assault On American Brewers, 1916. Part 3 of 3

Part One --- Part Two --- Part Three Welcome to First Draft Follies, an ongoing series here at the blog. All of the previous entries are available by clicking on "First Draft Follies" in the index. The material is presented "as is" from the first draft of the manuscript that became the book Ambitious Brew. In a few places I added one or two words in brackets -- [like this] -- for clarification. Whenever the excerpt is long, I've broken it down into several "parts."

This edition concerns the early twentieth century prohibition movement, which eventually produced the 18th Amendment and constitutional Prohibition.


Over the next few weeks, lawyers on both sides wore out themselves and two judges niggling over details and squabbling over motions to quash. Procedural minutia filled newspaper column after newspaper column, but the public was more interested in the activity out in the corridors.

James P. Mulvihill, the chubby, mustachioed vice-president of one of the state’s largest breweries and “reputed leader” of the state’s “liquor forces,” eluded subpoena-bearing marshals for nine days before surrendering to Humes. He’d been out of town, he explained, and unaware--so he said--that marshals had been tracking him all over eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. (*11)

Mulvihill arrived at the federal building just in time for “the climax of a day of many thrills” that included Hugh Fox’s arrest and his march to the county jail. (*12) Fox had refused the grand jury’s request for the USBA’s records and receipts. There were none to give, he explained; he and his staff destroyed their files monthly. The jury rejected his explanation; the judge pronounced him in contempt; and Fox landed in lock-up.

A few days later, Mulvihill provided a thrill of his own when he “intercepted” a government witness. Seventeen-year-old Katherine Gallagher, a stenographer employed by the Pennsylvania Brewers’ Association, had boarded a train in Philadelphia, subpoena in hand, father by her side, and headed west for her grand jury appearance. (*13)

When the train stopped at East Liberty, a suburban hamlet and station just outside Pittsburgh, Mulvihill hopped aboard and whisked the Gallaghers into a waiting car, stopping for breakfast before depositing father and daughter in the office of George Shaw, one of the brewers’ attorneys.

Mr. Gallagher told reporters that Mulvihill’s appearance took them by surprise. “We expected to go on into Pittsburgh,” he said, where a man from Humes’s office was to meet them at the station. But just outside the city, he explained, Mulvihill “dragged us off . . . to have breakfast with him. In the excitement I left my umbrella behind but it’s all right, I know, because I saw the conductor of the Pullman here this afternoon and he told me where it was.”

The conductor was on hand to reassure Mr. Gallagher about his rain gear because Humes had wasted no time subpoenaing both him and the porter who tended the Gallaghers’ rail car. Poor Katherine entered the jury room not sure what to expect, and left ninety minutes later in tears, clutching her father’s arm, her face buried against his back in an effort to “dodge newspaper photographers.”

The next day, Humes issued a dozen more subpoenas and announced that his agents had located the USBA’s hidden files, fifty-five filing drawers worth, all of them marked “confidential,” and all of them, Humes hoped (as, no doubt, did the ASL), chock-full of sensational evidence against the beermakers.

The affair spiraled downhill from there. On March 3, 1916, the grand jury indicted the USBA and seventy-three breweries on a 101 counts of violating the federal corrupt practices act. The throng of would-be jailbirds realized it was time to end a public feeding frenzy that only strengthened the prohibitionists’ cause. A few weeks later, all parties pleaded nolo contendere and paid fines totaling $100,000, about $1.7 million today.



*11: “Hugh F. Fox Committed for Refusing to Show Books of Association,” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, February 24, 1916, p. 1.

*12: Ibid.

*13: Remaining quotes are from “Government Witness is Intercepted,” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, February 26, 1916, p. 2.