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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Clever booze ruse doesn’t fool local cops

Spokane police arrested one of region’s most successful bootleggers, S.S. Ramsey, whose auto contained two hidden tanks containing 26 gallons of booze. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Spokane police arrested one of region’s most successful bootleggers, S.S. Ramsey, whose auto contained two hidden tanks containing 26 gallons of booze. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Spokane police arrested one of region’s most successful bootleggers, S.S. Ramsey, whose auto contained two hidden tanks containing 26 gallons of booze.

The tanks were so cunningly concealed that at first officers weren’t sure he was carrying any booze at all, but he “talked too much while being interviewed at the police station.”

Ramsey had been running a regular route from Missoula (where liquor was still legal), into Spokane, Pasco, Pendleton and every city and town in between.

In fact, Ramsey explained to police that he charged higher prices the farther from Montana he went. In Spokane he charged $4 or $5 per pint, but in Pasco, $7, and in Pendleton, $15, “provided the customer is sufficiently thirsty.”

Ramsey had been wanted for a long time and he narrowly escaped arrest a few weeks earlier in Sandpoint, where officers had a tip that he was carrying a cargo of liquor.

A posse awaited him, but his auto was so fast Ramsey “disappeared in a cloud of dust.”

His arrest in Spokane was apparently a lucky break for police. They apparently stopped him on a traffic violation and were not even aware, at first, of his identity.

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