Cape Cod Rum Runners
On Cape Cod, some residents brewed their own beer or made “bathtub gin,” but if it was quality alcoholic beverages that one desired, they turned to “Rum Row.”
“The bootlegger made gin, bathtub gin, peddled it around town and so forth. Or he may have been on the angle of distilling anything from grains to garbage and making alcohol, and in the process blinding and killing a few people,” Cummings explained. “But the rum runner was strictly on the water, and he ran the liquor from the offshore ships to the shore, and was probably involved in getting it from the shore to wherever their warehouse was.”
Rum Row was a stretch of floating liquor stores, selling everything from wine to whiskey to rum, in international waters just off the Eastern Seaboard. Originally three miles offshore, changes in law enforcement and international treaties expanded it to 12 miles and beyond.
“Provincetown and the outer shores of Cape Cod changed from being the end of the line to being one of the main distribution points on the Atlantic coast,” wrote Mary Heaton Vorse in the 1979 publication “Here’s Provincetown.” “The Bay shore from Race Point to Billingsgate Island off Wellfleet was awash with everything from raw alcohol to fine cognac and champagne, all imported, of course.”
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