• Rifle Inventor Quackenbush Told Prohibition Act Major Cause of Corruption in New York City

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    HENRY MARCUS QUACKENBUSH (April 27, 1847 – September 8, 1933) was an American inventor and industrialist who founded the H.M. Quackenbush Company in Herkimer, NY.  His company was widely known for its air rifles, first produced in 1876, and for the invention of the metal, spring-jointed nutcracker.  At age 14, Quackenbush began an apprenticeship at gun manufacturer Remington Arms Co. At age 16, Quackenbush invented the extension ladder, which he patented on Oct. 22, 1867. Several years later, he left his job at Remington to start his own metal working and gun shop.  Quackenbush and his company were responsible for inventing or significantly contributing to developing numerous inventions including bicycles, a foot-powered wood lathe, ammunition for air guns and the Kaleidoscope.


    INTERNATIONAL REFORM FEDERATION was the consolidation of a number of organizations working for the promotion of prohibition.


    Quackenbush was apparently a prohibitionist as he donated money to support the federation. A thank you TLS and a receipt are included in this lot, the highlight of which is a 2 pp, 8 ½ x 11, ALS, dated September 13, 1926, by New York 

    City resident FRANK M. BINGHAM to Quackenbush, who wrote a superb letter detailing corruption in New York City, which he believed resulted from the Volstead Act, also known as the National Prohibition Act.  Bingham wrote of dry agents rolling out barrels of liquor from the basement of a home owned by Gillette, who Bingham calls “the razor man,” illustrating one of thousands of instances of illegal activity.  The act has made “millionaires out of bootleggers” and created enough corruption to fill a book the size of a New York City directory.      


    In part, “…As to the Volstead Act [also known as the National Prohibition Act]—I heartily favor its repeal if that can be accomplished. To my certain knowledge, here in the city of New York, it has been the direct cause of falsehood, perjury, treachery, debauchery among citizens, young and old and of damnable dishonesty, bribery and crime of the lowest type among the very Government officials, high and low – paid to enforce the law.  It has made millionaires out of bootleggers whom you may be sure will outbid the ‘Dry’ force in all efforts to keep the Volstead Act in force.  I know enough of the corruption engendered by this act to fill a book: not a small book – but one of the size of a NY City Directory!


    “You people in places like Herkimer who see the advantages of the present law which has wiped out your saloons and drinking places and improved the sobriety of your working men – have little idea – I believe – of the conditions as they exist in the cities and especially in the city of New York.  This city is honey-combed with ‘speak easies’ and drinking places today throughout the residence sections of the city. Directly opposite to where I live today is a four-story dwelling formerly owned and occupied by Gillette, the safety razor man. The people on our side of the street had noticed many people going into the basement and last week some dry agents went there and rolled out six empty barrels and one which they emptied into the gutter.  I believe today the place is still running under ‘protection’ and open for business. Now this is only one of a thousand instances…Conditions in the city of New York are worse than they were before the Volstead Act went into effect…The wholesale corruption of Government officials is one of the worst features…


    “Very truly yours


    “Frank M. Bingham”


    Bingham letter is on his green stationary. Folds, toning to both letters. Pin holes from receipt on the TLS.  All very readable and wonderful prohibition Americana.


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