Omaha, Nebraska may not be the first place you think of when you think of prohibition, but this Midwestern city has a rich and storied history when it comes to the “Noble Experiment.”
Prohibition in Omaha began in 1916, two years before the national prohibition law, the 18th Amendment, went into effect. The city’s anti-alcohol sentiment was led by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League, who successfully lobbied for a local option vote that would prohibit the sale of alcohol within city limits.
But just because alcohol was illegal in Omaha, didn’t mean that people stopped drinking. Instead, a bustling underground economy emerged, with speakeasies and bootleggers popping up to meet the demand for illicit booze.
One of the most famous of these speakeasies was the “Blind Pig,” located in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood. The Blind Pig was known for its top-notch gin and live jazz music, and was a favorite spot for Omaha’s elite. But the party didn’t last forever – the Blind Pig was eventually raided by federal agents and its owner, “Big Joe” Esposito, was sentenced to prison for violating prohibition laws.
But it wasn’t just the speakeasies and bootleggers that made Omaha’s prohibition history so colorful. The city was also home to a number of colorful characters who were involved in the prohibition era, including “Queen of the Bootleggers” Jennie Rogers. Jennie was a notorious bootlegger who ran a large operation out of her home, and was known for her extravagant parties and fast cars. Despite being arrested multiple times, Jennie always managed to evade conviction, earning her the nickname “The Unsinkable Jennie Rogers.”
Prohibition in Omaha officially came to an end in 1933 with the repeal of the 18th Amendment, but the city’s prohibition history lives on. Today, visitors can take a prohibition history tour to learn more about the speakeasies, bootleggers, and colorful characters that made Omaha’s prohibition era so exciting. So, if you’re ever in Omaha, be sure to raise a glass (legally, of course) to the city’s storied past.
In summary, Omaha, Nebraska has a rich history of prohibition, and it started before the national prohibition law. The city’s anti-alcohol sentiment was led by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League. But, the prohibition era in Omaha saw the emergence of underground economy like speakeasies and bootleggers to meet the demand for illicit booze. Many colorful characters like ‘Queen of the Bootleggers’ Jennie Rogers made the prohibition era in Omaha exciting and interesting. Today, visitors can take a prohibition history tour to learn more about the city’s storied past.Raise a Glass to Omaha’s Roaring Prohibition Past: A Look into the Speakeasies and Bootleggers of Nebraska’s Hidden History