Alcohol (specifically ethanol, the good stuff in spirits) is a fairly simple carbon based molecule, but ever since civilization started producing beverages loaded with it, there have been controversies about its use.
As Americans, the most dramatic time period related to alcohol was the 13 year period where the sale and use of recreational alcohol was banned by the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act. It’s hard to imagine all the taps at your local bar going dry over night, but that’s exactly what happened at midnight on January 17, 1920 because of these actions by the federal government.
As a lifelong history nerd, I can’t help but look at those who came before us when thinking about the business. Prohibition made profound changes to peoples’ lives, including many folks here in downtown Frederick. It’s with this in mind that I write our inaugural blog post about one of our product’s namesake, Claude “Diamond Tooth” Countee.
Claude Countee, known as “Diamond Tooth” because of an insert in one of his canines, was born on March 22, 1890 in Frederick, MD. It’s hard to tell from the records we’ve found so far, but it looks like Claude might have grown up on Degrange Street between South and Patrick Streets. From local papers it’s clear that Claude Countee had run-ins with the law as early as 1915.
Photo: Cover page of the May 23, 1924 edition of the Frederick News. Please pardon the 1920’s parlance. If we could go back in time and enlighten people, we would. (courtesy Historical Society of Frederick County)
After paying some fines and spending some time in jail, Countee turned to robbing clothing stores as his new vocation. In 1924 Countee was convicted of stealing $3,000 worth of merchandise (almost $42,000 today) from a downtown Frederick clothing store and was sentenced to ten years. He was released early on parole, but was again arrested in connection with a robbery of B. Rosenour’s clothing store on North Market Street in 1930.
Photo: The Rosenour Building today. Next time you’re in the Tasting Room having a cocktail think about Claude and his associates on the job there in 1930.
There are so many gems and vivid accounts of Claude’s exploits that I expect to be writing about him again soon. If you have questions, comments, rants or anything at all you’d like to say, the comment section is below.
Stay tuned and always remember to ward off ordinary.