A long tradition of keeping Slavic peasants
   inebriated is reflected in many names from the
   shtetl: Winiarz, Winiarski (for making wine, a legal
   cover and side business) and  Gorzelnik (the making
   of vodka or other hard liquor, the dominant business
   and usually illegal).  One such humble-looking dynasty
   was the Bronfmans.

   After yet another crackdown on moonshine by the Tsar
   in 1889, the Bronfmans relocated to a distant yet
   familiar environment.  They set up shop selling booze
   to German farmers on the border of Saskatchewan
   and Montana, the easier to escape the jurisdiction
   more rigorous at the moment.  Of the four children,
   Abraham, Alan, Harry, and Samuel, Sam proved to
   have the most chutzpah, changing the face of
   the Bronfmans' new-found continent.

   In 1916 Sam and Harry moved back east and opened a retail liquor
   outlet in Montreal.  The duo are also reported to have started up a
   chain of "little hotels": according to Bronfman parter James
   Rutkin, "they sleep very fast.  They rent them quite a few times
   a night."

   Sam also had stills across Canada near the U.S. border, for instance
   at his parents' old haunts at Yorkton and Regina, Saskatchewan
   and a liquor warehouse at Govenlock six miles north of the border
   on the Wild Horse Trail.  The single-store town of Govenlock made a
   fortune on  bootlegging, starting illegally when Canadian provinces
   went dry, then booming when the tables reversed and the U.S. went dry.
   Another major smuggling point crossed from Manitoba to North

   South of the border, in 1919, the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) was
   passed empowering  the Volstead Act.   Samuel Bronfman made such
   a fortune bootlegging, all along the U.S./Canadian border but
   especially from Quebec, that Lake Erie became known as the "Jewish
   Lake" for his famous speedboats.  He joined forces with Meyer Lansky,
   "Waxy" Gordon (Irving Wexler), Lucky Luciano, and a host of other
   mobsters to become the major liquor distributor  in the United States.

   Canada's Parliament also passed in 1919 some restrictions against
   hard liquor, specifically labelling it a drug.   Harry Bronfman
   found the loophole: he got a pharmacy license and renamed the
   family business the Canada Pure Drug Company.

   Samuel Bronfman had problems with the petty racketeers who drove
   the trucks  across  the  border.  They were too greedy, too numerous,
   and not trustworthy kinfolk.  Meyer Lansky's Murder, Inc. provided
   the  essential service of weeding their ranks.

   Bronfman's exports gave birth not only to the modern Mob, but also
   to modern money laundering, according to financial expert J. Orlin Grabbe:

  Exporting alcohol to the U.S. was not illegal in Canada; it was only
illegal to import it from the U.S. side.  Naturally those writing checks  to
pay for imported Canadian booze didn't like to be so obvious as to  make them
out to  Bronfman. So the Bronfmans opened up an account  at the Bank of
Montreal under the fictitious name "J. Norton". Since no  one knew anything
at all about J.  Norton, money could be wired to this  account from the U.S.
Or U.S. cash or checks could be used to purchase  a bank draft made  out to
"J. Norton" at any branch of the Bank  of Montreal. These drafts could then
be deposited into the bank  account of any Bronfman-controlled company. The
company treasurer  would see the name "J. Norton" and credit  the payments to
the  company's U.S. Booze account.

   Lansky, along with Bronfman and his partners Tibor Rosenbaum
   and Louis Bloomfield, set up money laundering rings between
   the U.S., England, Palestine (later Israel), Switzerland,
   Cuba, the Bahamas, and Canada, among many other locations.  They
   became intimately familiar with the nature of bank account
   control and the forgery of bank documents.

   For such a scheme to work requires people at all stages of
   handling large amounts of money who can be trusted: people of
   the same kin and religion.  This forms a network of trust, of the
   same kind that can be found among Chinese merchants in Souteast
   Asia, for example.

   All told, over half the bootleg shipped to the U.S. during
   Prohibition was shipped by Sam and Harry Bronfman.  One of the rivals
   of Bronfman/Lansky partnership was a more famous but lower volume
   bootlegger, Joe Kennedy.  That rivalry lasted long after Prohibition
   ended, but that is another story.

   In 1920 Lansky and Sam Bronfman entered into collaboration with "Big
   Maxie" Greenberg, a veteran Detroit mobster, and Arnold Rothstein,
   who owned a chain of New York gambling casinos. Rothstein and
   Bronfman bankrolled the operation, purchasing "safe" sites in Maine
   to import liquor, while Greenberg went to St. Louis and "Waxy" Gordon
   took over New Jersey.

   In 1926, Sam and Harry Bronfman negotiated the Canadian
   distribution rights for Distiller's Company Limited of
   Edinburgh, London.  This giant British conglomerate
   sold more than half the world's scotch, and the Bronfmans
   became the official vehicle whereby they distributed
   to North America.  DCL's board of directors included
   Lord Dewar, Field Marshal Earl Haig, Sir Alexander Walker,
   and so on.  While the Bronfmans in good shtetl tradition
   laid low and painted for themselves a humble, put-upon
   portrait, the British lords immortalized themselves as brand
   names.  The next year, the Bronfmans purchased the old Canadian
   firm of Seagram's, and began to experiment with "blended"
   (i.e. watered) whiskey.

   In  1929 Meyer Lansky, "Longy" Zwillman and Louis "Lepke" Buchalter
   host a meeting of gangland bosses -- including Al Capone, Frank
   Costello, Charlie "Lucky" Luciano and Johnny Torrio -- at Atlantic
   City's President Hotel to hammer out a "cartelization" of territories
   for activities that went far beyond bootlegging. This is the beginning
   of "Crime, Inc."

   In 1933 Prohibition was repealed. Meyer Lansky, Benjamin Siegelman
   ("Bugsy" Siegel), Samuel Tucker, Moe Dalitz, Morris Kleinman and
   Samuel Rothkopf, all of whom escaped prosecution, built a chain of
   distilleries across the northern United States, selling millions
   of gallons of alcohol to liquor manufacturers  without bothering to
   pay excise taxes.  Bronfman, by now worth billions, kept making
   and selling hard liquor, but also diversified into a wide range of
   properties, including  Texas Pacific Oil Co. Inc, Ranger Oil,
   Tropicana, and Dole.

  The end of Prohibition brought major trauma as cash flows in need  of
protection shrank and mobsters fought over the remaining heroin  and numbers
rackets.  In 1936 "Dutch" Schultz (portrayed in movies  as a blond German
villian, but really a black-haired Jewish neighbor  of Lansky and Rothstein),
divulged plans to assassinate  Thomas E. Dewey, at that time U.S. Attorney
for New York.  Buchalter and  Lansky had Schultz gunned down and his
territory  divided among the  cartel.  Dewey then turned his agents loose on
Buchalter and Shapiro.  The two went into hiding, and set about "eliminating"
potential talebearers.  Over the next three years more than a hundred
gangland figures  are purged by "Murder, Inc."


   Arnold Rothstein's son, Murray, would change his name to "Sumner
   Redstone" and combine a wide array of U.S. media properties into the
   mass media giant Viacom.  Samuel Bronfman's grandson, Edgar Jr. would
   buy media giant MCA/Universal.  Both media houses heavily promoted
   and widely distributed movies featuring Italian-Americans as
   gangsters, conveniently leaving out the leading roles of their
   forebears.   The Bronfmans have also had many other adventures,
   which may be related in a future post.

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