Thursday, Dec. 04, 2008

Sobriety & Statesman

For more than 75 years, historians and conspiracy theorists alike have speculated that famed Boston businessman Joseph P. Kennedy, JFK's father, made his fortune by distributing liquor during the Prohibition. That he agreed to supply fellow Harvard alum with liquor at their 10th reunion in 1922 only fueled more gossip. In 1926, custom officials in Canada began investigating unpaid liquor export taxes and found the name "Joseph Kennedy" on many of the documents, though authorities never brought charges. Some men claiming to be Kennedy's former underworld associates even said he did business with Al Capone. Former Deputy Director of the FBI Cartha DeLoach told a Kennedy biographer that there was a great deal of suspicion about his early days as a financier, before adding, "But as it is in America, you overcome these things." And overcome he did. In the fall of 1933, Kennedy secured exclusive rights to distribute spirits for his company, Somerset Importers. He later wheeled and dealed his way into a medical license that allowed him to import the alcohol, stock his warehouses, and patiently wait for Prohibition's end two months later.