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A speakeasy was an illegal unlicensed establishment that was used for the illegal selling and drinking alcoholic beverages during the period of United States history known as Prohibition, when selling or buying alcohol was illegal. The term comes from a speakeasy patron's manner of ordering a drink without raising suspicion — speakeasy bartender's would often tell patrons to keep it down and "speak easy".

 The origin of the word itself predates Prohibition. The term 'spake-aisy' was often used in the late 1700's to refer to a smugglers' hideout.

Samuel Hudson, who was a newspaperman in the late 1800's, said he heard the term used in the City of Pittsburgh by an old Irish woman who sold her liquor without a license. The  irish woman reportedly told her clients to "speak easy" if they wanted to buy some.

The Cassell Dictionary of Slang brings the word into usage around 1890.


Another slang term similar to a speakeasy is "blind pig".

The difference between a speakeasy and a blind pig is that a speakeasy was usually a higher-class establishment, where a blind pig was a lower class dive.


One former speakeasy still exists in New York City, Chumley's at 86 Bedford Street.

It remains authentically decorated and there are no signs on the door to indicate that inside lies a bar and restaurant.

 There is even a secret back door leading out to a passageway on to Barrow Street so that customers could make a quick exit when the police called.

Speakeasies became more popular and numerous as the Prohibition years progressed, as well were their connections to organized crime.

Although police and United States Federal Government agents would raid such establishments and arrest the owners and patrons, the business of running speakeasies was so lucrative that such establishments continued to flourish throughout the nation.


Police corruption at this time was notoriously rampant; police were commonly bribed by speakeasy operators to either leave them alone or at least give them advance notice of any planned raid.

In major cities, speakeasies could often be elaborate, offering food, live bands, and floorshows.


Speakeasy Moonshine was often served up in racy shot glasses like this period McKee Glass Company Vaseline Bottoms Up Shot Glass that once full cannot be put down again until empty... and then only Bottoms Up!

Hence the origin of the now famous prohibition era speakeasy

"Bottoms Up"


Still In Use Today


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