Prescription Required

Not too long ago, I joked about putting a little whiskey in my tea to help fight a cold I was battling. Truth is, people have been using alcohol as medicine since the Middle Ages (a drop of gin was believed to ward off the plague, a glug of wine could defend the body from corruption, and a sip of absinthe would rid the body of roundworms), even though there is scientific evidence that not only does it not help, it is often detrimental. What you may not realize, however, is what this interesting bit of trivia has to do with Prohibition… or Rose.

“He owned some drugstores, a lot of drugstores,” Daisy Buchanan said. “He built them up himself.” [The Great Gatsby]

When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote these words, he knew that his contemporaries would understand Gatsby’s real source of income: bootlegging. The meaning of “drugstores” was clear: they were where you went to get medically prescribed alcohol.

But, even as early as June 1917, the American Medical Association knew alcohol did nothing in the aid of illness. In fact, they recommended against it.¹ None-the-less, prohibition laws allowed the medicinal use of alcohol. So, if a patient was willing to pay $3 for a prescription and another $4 to have it filled, he or she could have their very own pint of hooch, refillable every 10 days… for another $7, of course.²

What’s more, these “drugstores” generally served as ordering houses for illegally procured alcohol as well. After all, they had access to the real stuff, not home-brewed, hidden away hooch, but honest-to-goodness, distillery grade, commercial whiskey. Drugstore owners, like the fictional Jay Gatsby or real life George Remus³, could amass an empire if they could find a way to warehouse the whiskey not used for prescriptions and sell it, instead, to speakeasies or other enterprising bootleggers to move across the country.

What? You say I forgot to tell you what any of this has to do with Rose?

I guess I did at that. 🙂






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