A Special Letter from

R.C. Durkee:

 Hello Maritime Museum of Sandusky and its followers,

      My program, Rum Runners on Lake Erie, Gangsters or Good Guys? was scheduled for Saturday, April 11 but the Covid 19 virus has other ideas that has changed plans and the lives for all of us.

     The museum has offered me a choice of videotaping my program without an audience at the museum or meeting me at my home or other location to tape my program, but I am being very strict and respectful about the stay at home orders. As much as I would like to think my program is essential, it is not.

     My favorite part of my program, and I hope it’s yours also, is the live interaction with my audience with story sharing and questions, so I hope the museum will reschedule my program after the pandemic has passed and social distancing no longer needed so I can do my program live for you and meet you. Meanwhile, I thought I would share some historical information of a similar pandemic that was a precursor to Prohibition and may have even help fuel the ban of alcohol during the 1920s and early 30s.

     It was the Spanish Flu of 1918 that was a global pandemic spread by WWI soldiers for an eighteen month period, killing 675,000 Americans and 20-50 million globally. Forty percent of the earth’s population was infected, including President Woodrow Wilson who contacted it when signing the Peace Treaty in France ending WWI.

      Initially, there was a lack of quarantining and a hush up of the disease in order to keep moral up among the troops and prevent panic among civilians which allowed the virus to sweep across Europe. When U.S. troops returned home after the war, they brought the virus with them, and local, state and federal governments realized social interacting needed to cease in order to slow or stop the spread. Just as now, churches, schools, sports, events and programs were canceled. Self-quarantine and “stay at home” orders were given. Some cities took this order more seriously than others with the numbers of sickness and deaths corresponding with how seriously each municipality took this epidemic. Places that were slack or did not stress quarantine for their populace saw higher sickness and death rates than places that did. Also, cities that were quick to relax social distancing upon the virus’s slowing and deaths rates falling to zero, saw a return rise as compared to cities that remained cautious until it was clear the virus was no longer a threat.  Charts showing responses in each major city to quarantining can be seen at National Geographic’s website. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/03/how-cities-flattened-curve-1918-spanish-flu-pandemic-coronavirus/

     So how does this tie into Prohibition?  With the end of these two horrific events, WWI and the Spanish Flu, the nation erupted into a period of joy and relief. In other words, they “partied a little too hardy,” which ushered in the Roaring Twenties.  Alcohol flowed, and temperance organizations put more pressure on the government to reign in this other plague- a plague of unbridled drunkenness. On the heels of the virus, Prohibition Law was passed, and one year later, January 1920, the law went into effect.

     Did the Spanish Flu help fuel Prohibition? It may have been one factor as a relieved nation celebrated war’s and virus’s end.

     I hope you found this interesting and take from it a “can do” mindset, and realize we are all in this together and have weathered past storms and rose from them.

     I hope to reschedule my program and see all of you. The museum has a great group at its helm, and you, my audience have been enjoyable to meet. Looking forward to seeing you!


Stay strong,

R.C. Durkee          

© 2020 Sandusky Area Maritime Assoc.