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  • Writer's pictureDon Wilding

Go ‘Rum Running’ with Don in Wellfleet

For the last couple of years, I’ve been presenting a local lecture program, Rum Running on Cape Cod, about the days of the Prohibition era (1920-1933) on our fair peninsula.

Now, here’s your chance to really indulge in the contraband game.

Starting on Jan. 18, I’ll be the instructor for a five-week course, Cape Cod Contraband: Rum Running and the Era of Prohibition, at Open University of Wellfleet. The classes will be held on Friday mornings through Feb. 15, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall, and will consist of five two-hour lectures, with dozens of PowerPoint images to go along with each session.

You can register now through OUW’s website.

During the era of Prohibition (1920-1933), rum running was big business on Cape Cod. Farmers and fishermen of the Cape took to the seas, heading offshore to "Rum Row" to bring the criminal yet coveted alcohol to the mainland under cover of darkness, while the possibility of being caught by the Coast Guard was always present. Busy harbors and remote estuaries, many of which are now popular tourist destinations, were all game for bringing the contraband ashore, while local law enforcement officials often turned a blind eye.

This course will take a closer look at what President Herbert Hoover referred to as "the Noble Experiment”:

  • U.S. Prohibition and its history, which extends back to Colonial times;

  • Prohibition’s connection to the federal income tax and organized crime;

  • St. Pierre: The tiny island that supplied large amounts of contraband liquor to Cape Cod;

  • Local Cape Cod rum runners and where and how they did their business;

  • The downfall of “the Frankenstein that was the 18th Amendment.”

This will be the fourth course that I’ve offered for Open University of Wellfleet, a 501-c3 nonprofit that was founded by former Brown University Professor Rhoda Flaxman in 2015. OUW features unique humanities courses for a modest fee. My previous courses were Journey to the Outer Beach, A History of Provincetown, and A History of Eastham.

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