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100 years ago in Spokane: Wife disputes doctor’s claim that he gave man prescriptions for liquor to ease broken leg pain

Wed., Sept. 13, 2017

Spokane County Sheriff George Reid said he found evidence that Dr. J. W. Cosford wrote “more than 500 booze prescriptions” during the summer, The Spokesman-Review reported on Sept. 13, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Spokane County Sheriff George Reid said he found evidence that Dr. J. W. Cosford wrote “more than 500 booze prescriptions” during the summer, The Spokesman-Review reported on Sept. 13, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Two stories in The Spokesman-Review illustrated the difficulty of enforcing the state’s prohibition laws.

In the first story, Spokane County Sheriff George Reid said that he found evidence that one physician, Dr. J. W. Cosford, had written “more than 500 booze prescriptions” during the summer.

Dr. Cosford argued that he prescribed liquor only to patients who needed it, including to a man who had a broken leg.

However, the sheriff contacted the wife of that man, who told him that her husband had broken his leg because he was drunk — on liquor supplied by Dr. Cosford.

The sheriff had been combing through drug store prescription records and identifying doctors who were abusing the loophole allowing liquor to be prescribed for medical reasons.

The other story illustrated the easiest way to get around the state’s dry laws: Simply go to Montana and stock up on booze. If you got enough, you could sell it on the black market in Spokane.

Mr. and Mrs. Fred Humphrey, proprietors of the Liberty Hotel in Spokane, were arrested on the Northern Pacific train just before it arrived in the city. They were in possession of three trunks and two suitcases, containing a total of 170 pint bottles of whisky.

Railroad officials became suspicious when they had arrived in Thompson Falls, Montana, a few days earlier with three empty trunks.