Erick Jones, the author of "Wide Open Evansville," a true story of local corruption and bootlegging during prohibition, will be making an appearance locally and you can learn all about the seedy secrets buried in the city - literally! There has even been a tunnel discovered recently believed to have been part of the underground bootlegging of alcohol.

Bottle Smashing
Getty Images

Temperance - A Sign of the Times

It may seem hard to imagine, but in the early Twentieth Century, the state of Indiana went dry, even before prohibition swept through other parts of the country. For the rest of the United States, the prohibition of alcohol began with the ratification of the 18th Amendment which went into effect on January 17, 1920.

Prohibition Rally
Getty Images

Bye Bye Booze

Various groups had been pushing their anti-alcohol agenda in cities and states across the country, but why was alcohol finally banned on a national level? It started with the President's attempt to conserve grain, according to The History Channel,

In 1917, after the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson instituted a temporary wartime prohibition in order to save grain for producing food. That same year, Congress submitted the 18th Amendment, which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors, for state ratification. Though Congress had stipulated a seven-year time limit for the process, the amendment received the support of the necessary three-quarters of U.S. states in just 11 months.


Indiana Got a Head Start

Nearly two years prior to the nation's ban on alcohol, Indiana had already gone dry with the use and possession of alcohol being outlawed on April 2, 1918. According to, it was even illegal to possess alcohol for medicinal purposes in the state.

Pouring It Away
Getty Images

Can't Keep a Good City Dry

As it turns out, a lot of folks didn't care for Indiana, or Evansville being dry and they were going to do something about it. In fact, bootlegging and illicit activities were happening all over the country, but Evansville has some extra juicy secrets - the kind you keep under the floorboards.

Beer Barrel
Getty Images

What Hides Beneath

Recently, Evansville's newest local business and bibliophile hotspot, Your Brother's Bookstore made a unique discovery - a prohibition-era tunnel under the floor of the business. The find has opened up a lot of discussion about what was going on in the city of Evansville during prohibition.

Rich and Sordid History

As it turns out, there is one man who has some insider knowledge about what was happening in, around, and even under the city. Author Erick Jones is the great-great-grandson of  Andy Friedle, the Evansville, Indiana Police Captain who was in charge of the now infamous, "booze boat."

Smashed Barrels
Getty Images

Telling the Tale

Jones has put his family's history, and a lot of research, including "fascinating documents that reveal the true story in sensational detail," into the pages of his book, "Wide Open Evansville."

What began as a genealogy search grew into an in-depth investigation of a period of time when Indiana instituted prohibition while Kentucky did not. Evansville was a brewery town with a strong German culture at the time, and it struggled to stay away from liquor. It earned a reputation of being wide open when its Chief of Police, Edgar Schmitt, was prosecuted in the 1920 Evansville whiskey ring conspiracy.

Meet The Author

Not only can you pick up a copy of "Wide Open Evansville" at the same bookstore with the mysterious prohibition tunnel underneath, but Your Brother's Bookstore is hosting a presentation with Erick Jones, who will be sharing a fascinating look at this wild time in our city's history. The event, "Erick Jones speaking about Evansville's Prohibition Era," is taking place on July 23, 2022, in the Browning Room of Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library's Central Library branch beginning at 3 pm Central Standard Time.

Your Brother's Bookstore

Your Brother's Bookstore, owned by brothers Adam and Sam Morris, has a wonderful selection of books from both local, national, and international authors, as well as board games and gaming gear. They even have a selection of rare books and signed volumes too. Your Brother's Bookstore is located at 504 Main Street in downtown Evansville.


More From WOMI-AM