Photo by Andy DiMatteo
The 18th amendment to the Constitution banned
intoxicating liquors to everyone in America, and
Prohibition was an exciting time in the Bayshore and
an era in history remembered with both grief and
But along the Shrewsbury River, the Bayshore
waterway that opened out to the Atlantic Ocean,
the seafaring men who made their daily living
fishing, clamming and boat-building, became the
bootleggers, rumrunners and smugglers who
catered to the needs of a thirsty nation by night.
Tunnels at the river’s edge provided safe haven for
boats loaded with liquor. The age of the rumrunner
was a lively time for Highlands, and an exciting
memory for the generation who can still remember
the soft purr of high-speed boats, the taste of
Usher’s Green Stripe or Meyer’s Perfection, and the
names of revered rumrunners who plied the trade.
Respected smugglers, who guaranteed
unadulterated pure liquor, dealt with the highly
esteemed wine, brandy and liquor shippers
Maurice Meyer of London. To protect the
anonymity of the smugglers, and the firm’s own
reputation, Meyer’s designed a series of code
words that were used by smugglers, issued
fictitious names and London addresses where
orders could be sent, and instructed their buyers
in America to refer only to those code words and
names in their communications. The specific
codes were kind of fun, relating to common
flowers, fruits, vegetables or meats. Buchanan’s
Black and White Scotch, for instance was known
as “roses,” Hennessy’s Three Star Brandy was
“apples,” and gin was either “salmon,” “mackerel”
or “sole,” depending on whether it was ordered in
square or round bottles, or casks.
All these folks were dealing outside the law, and in
addition to keeping out of reach of law enforcement,
they also faced dangers and death from hijackers,
who made their living by stealing from the
bootleggers. According to a newspaper article of the
day, there was even a shootout near what was then
the train station in Atlantic Highlands, resulting in
multiple injuries and the death of a hijacker.
Prohibition was later recognized by the U.S.
government as a failed social experiment, and
it was repealed with the passage of the 21st
amendment in late 1933.
Muriel J. Smith