“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, February 16, 1920, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

One month after the Volstead Act took effect, prohibiting the sale and distribution of alcohol throughout the country, the wets’ predictions of increased crime are coming true.

Pittsburgh is described in a government report, as

wringing wet…Pennsylvania is very wet and only the price is needed by those who want whiskey and plenty of it.”


Pittsburgh in 1920

Almost three hundred doctors in the area have legal prescription pads to write their patients medicinal whiskey orders.

A popular mixture of creosote, denatured wood alcohol, and caramel coloring is known as Pittsburgh Scotch.

The posh William Penn Hotel in downtown opens a speakeasy under the lobby with a secret escape route to Oliver Avenue in case of a raid, while the Dry Federation of Pennsylvania holds meetings upstairs. The nearby Nixon Theatre also has a speakeasy called Flying Squadron, where jazz singer Helen Morgan, 20, performs on top of the piano.


The Nixon Theatre

The US attorney John D. Meyer tells the Pittsburgh Press,

If necessary, I will put a spy on every doorstep in Pittsburgh.”

In the South Side flats section of the city, state representative Thomas J. Gallagher, 36, and his wife Flossie Cleis Gallagher, 35, welcome their seventh child, Virginia Mary Gallagher, my mother.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and others in both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University’s Osher Lifelong Learning programs.

Manager as Muse, about Perkins and his writers, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.



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