Rum Rebellion ‘celebrates’ centennial
IRON RIVER / CRYSTAL FALLS — For a few weeks in February of 1920, Iron River became the site of national news.
Shortly after the Volstead Act (commonly known as “Prohibition) began, federal agents arrived in Iron River to enforce the new law against local wine-makers. What transpired became known as the “Rum Rebellion,” and this week is the 100th anniversary of the event, which was reported on in the national press.
Local historian, former Iron County Historical Museum board president and interim museum director Bill Leonoff picks up on the story:
“The Rum Rebellion was a ‘David vs Goliath’ encounter in the federal government’s attempt to enforce Prohibition on small local Italian wine-makers, and in this case, ‘David’ was the winner. State Attorney Martin McDonough of Iron River out-maneuvered Federal Agent Major A. V. Dalrymple, eventually threatening to jail all the federal agents. A tense confrontation between McDonough and Dalrymple dissipated when Dalrymple claimed he was being called back to Washington.
“Several news organizations sent reporters to Iron River to cover the events, which resulted in national headlines. Dalrymple went on to be a national director of the Prohibition Bureau, but McDonough’s star was on the rise. A Chicago newspaper called him ‘the gasconading bootleggers’ hero.’ He held several local government positions, and eventually ran for Congress but lost.