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  “DON’T SHOOT, WE ARE NOT BOOTLEGGERS.” A PRINTED PAPER SIGN FROM A DETROIT MAKER, DURING PROHIBITION, WITH A 1929 COPYRIGHT

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 10.25" x 27.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 3.5" x 21"
Description....:
During Prohibition, which became law in 1920 and ended in 1933, Detroit was a hotbed of illegal activity. The Detroit River became a major route for smugglers bringing booze in from Canada. In the winter, cars and trucks could be driven directly over it from Ontario, as it was less than a mile across in some places, with thousands of coves and hiding places along the shore and islands. In addition to Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River, the Detroit River and the associated waterways carried 75% of the liquor supplied to the United States during Prohibition.

Although the Province of Ontario had likewise outlawed the retail liquor sales, it was the Canadian government that approved and licensed distilleries and breweries. There were 45 of these operating in Ontario, alone, in 1920, manufacturing, distributing, and exporting. By this and other means, illegal rum-running grew to such proportion that it actually became—as difficult as it might be to believe—the second largest industry in Michigan, behind auto production. By 1929, at the height of the issue at hand, the estimated annual revenue from illegal liqueur was approximately $215 million.

Private citizens sometimes became fearful of a propensity for frustrated law enforcement, unable to control bootlegging to, on occasion, shoot first and ask questions later. That is the thrust of the message here, on an elongated printed paper handbill, of sorts, that was almost certainly intended to be adhered to the back of a vehicle, as one would affix a modern bumper sticker. Flanked by two American flags with 48 stars, perhaps to emphasize that the vehicle was American and not Canadian, the message, in blue and red, reads: “Don’t Shoot! We Are Not Bootleggers”. Below, in small letters, is the identification of the printer: “Copyright 1929 By Michigan Novelty Co.; 1433 Barlum Tower, Detroit, Michigan”.

An extraordinary item I have not before encountered, and a tremendous piece of ephemera from American Prohibition.

Mounting: The 2-part frame consists of an antique, acid-washed, oak molding of the 1890-1920 era, to which a shadowbox style molding, made of wood, but with a finish the looks like early, rusted iron, was added as a cap. This is a pressure mount between 100% cotton twill, washed and treated for colorfastness, and U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).

Condition: There are creases where the item was previously folded. There are a number of tears and there are various minor losses. The former were repaired on the reverse with paper, archival, mending tape. The latter (tiny) were underlaid with parchment of similar coloration.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type:
Star Count: 48
Earliest Date of Origin: 1929
Latest Date of Origin: 1929
State/Affiliation: Michigan
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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