The life story of George Remus who was known as “The King of the Bootleggers” is full of some interesting and classic examples of twisting the law to deviate from punishment while building an empire.
George Remus, German born in 1876 was four years old when his family moved to The United States of America. His family kept moving to different states but finally got settled permanently in the City of Chicago. His parents instilled a sense of German culture in him giving him command on both the German and English Language.
Around 1890 Remus father suffered from rheumatism and was left disabled. From that point forward George Remus life changed dramatically, and he was left with no choice but to quit his studies and find work to feed his family. Remus being a young man of strong willpower accepted this change in responsibilities and began to work in a pharmacy at the age of fourteen. In his late teens Remus enrolled in the Chicago College of Pharmacy and obtained a pharmacist license. He also obtained an optometrist certificate to pursue in a limited practice.
As a young adult he was fond of art, literature and fine cuisine. He joined an Athletic Club and participated in national events as a member of the club’s water polo team. George Remus was both a good swimmer with an exceptional tolerance for pain. In 1907 Remus set an endurance swimming record by staying in the unsympathetic waters of Lake Michigan 5 hours and 40 minutes. A record that held for decades.
Remus had aim to become a lawyer in his younger days. He started attending law school at Illinois College of Law. After completing his course in just 18 months he passed the Illinois bar exam and set up his own law office.
In 1920 The Volstead Act was passed by The United States Congress which established prohibition in the United States. Remus saw that illegal production and sale of liquors true beneficiaries from this law were the organized operations working around it. Remus found the loopholes in the law and started buying distilleries to sell bonded liquors.
Remus picked Cincinnati as his headquarters with eighty percent of the whiskey in The United States located within three hundred miles of the city. The majority of the population in Cincinnati at the time were German-Americans which proved to be a perfect location for liquor distilleries. Prior to this Cincinnati was a beer brewing hub and The Volstead Act was very unpopular here. The first distillery bought by Remus was the Edgewood Distillery in Cincinnati.
Remus began to sell liquor from his distillery and entered the bootleg market. However, he needed transportation so he created a trucking company and exported the liquor to the west side of Cincinnati. Soon that area was deemed as “Death Valley” as it was only accessible through rough terrain and was guarded by armed guards who would open fire on unwanted visitors. From this Death Valley Remus shipped whiskey to nearby states at high prices and soon gained the title of “King of the Bootleggers”.
Years later the Prohibition Bureau finally arrested George Remus. He also murdered his wife when he found out that she had betrayed him with one of his inmates who was an undercover prohibition officer. Cheviot’s own Dr. Larry Tepe explained to me that his Grandmother told him as a child a relative of his is who Remus visited before his jail sentence to have his teeth fixed before going to jail. George Remus died at the age of seventy-seven in Kentucky.
Do you have any George Remus stories or urban legends you were told as a child? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.