The Laws for Some Have Never Applied to All

The Laws for Some Have Never Applied to All

Were the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol Building dry during Prohibition?  Not at all!  These drinkers, though, didn’t buy their moonshine from Capone or in a dirty speakeasy in DC.  Like most Congressional scandals, they had an in-house guy for the dirty work.  While they passed laws implementing the Constitutional Amendment that dried out the states and used federal resources to chase and prosecute bootleggers, a guy called only the “Man in the Green Hat,” kept them well supplied with favorite spirits.

The “Man in the Green Hat,” as he was commonly known was actually a World War I vet named George Cassiday.  Cassiday had his own office in the House of Representatives Office building where he could do his trading with members of Congress.  It’s believed that he carted his wares in suitcases to and from his secure basement office and his patrons found him nearly every day.  Cassiday’s operation ran smoothly for a time, often he was even escorted through the building by Capitol police officers.  In the House, Cassiday reported that he dealt directly with the nation’s elected officials and seemed to be very good at his job—so good that he likely had a higher approval rating than all of Congress combined!

As with all Prohibition lore, though, there’s a twist.  Several Capitol Police officers not in on the secret eventually busted Cassiday for illegal bootlegging on federally owned land.  He was arrested and prosecuted, and called “the Man in the Green Hat” by reporters.  Having a moniker never hurt a bootlegger, and it didn’t hurt Cassiday either.  Despite his arrest, he continued to thrive from a different location.  If you get arrested from dealing with the House of Representatives where do you go next?  The Senate!

Cassiday reportedly preferred the House where he traded directly with the elected officials, whereas in the Senate he accepted orders through secretaries.  Despite his preference for the House, Cassiday was well-liked in the Senate and through the 1970’s, there was a restaurant on the Senate side of the Capitol called “the Man in the Green Hat.”

If you were going to run booze during Prohibition, you have to admit Cassiday had a great gig.  He had a powerful, wealthy client base and he enjoyed free reign of his small fiefdom.  He didn’t have to fight the likes of Capone on the mean streets of anywhere.  He simply maintained a lucrative business and kept his head covered, so to speak.

As Congress threw back bottle after bottle, though, then Vice President Curtis had other ideas of what was good for the country.  Eventually Cassiday was caught up in a raid orchestrated by the Vice President.  This time when Cassiday was arrested, he was wearing a “tan hat,” confusing even the savviest federal agents who were already so well respected in this time. (Full sarcasm!)  Cassiday spent eighteen months in prison, but turned his business operation on his head by writing a newspaper column in the Washington Post detailing his exploits and explaining how it was that he was able to serve 80 percent of Congress during Prohibition.

National service at its finest!

And in case you were wondering, the Senate successfully kept Cassiday’s client list from ever being made public!

Written by Amy Williams

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