Gin Riots

Gin Riots

Cheap gin, first imported from the Netherlands in the 1690s, became an extremely popular drink in the early 18th century. Politicians and religious leaders began to argue that gin drinking encouraged laziness and criminal behaviour. In 1729 Parliament passed a Gin Act that increased the tax on the drink. This action was unpopular with the working-classes and in 1743 resulted in riots in London. The crowd ignored the magistrates reading of the Riot Act, and a great deal of damage was done. The government responded by reducing duties and penalties, claiming that moderate measures would be easier to enforce.

The History of Gin and its Medicinal Origins

It’s a hot day, you’ve worked up a good sweat while cleaning the house, tending to the garden, or maybe you just want to have something to drink while you’re relaxing. Gin is famous worldwide, from a satisfying Gin and tonic to fancy cocktails. However, Gin has a fascinating history, so today, I will dive into the origins of this fantastic spirit.

Gin was first used as medicine by monks and alchemists across Europe in the 13th century. Gin made its way to England during the 17th century, introduced as a Dutch and Belgian liquor used for medicine. Gin rose to popularity after a ban on French brandy was put in place in 1688 by William of Orange during the Glorious revolution.

Naturally, Gin’s entire history can’t be covered in two or three sentences. Usually, you’ll find that Gin is used in combination with other drinks to create a much more satisfying cocktail. Let’s dive deeper into the origins of Gin, what it’s made from, and how it has evolved and changed across history.

Watts Explodes

Heavyweight boxer Amos Lincoln, aka Big Train, guards the family drug store during rioting in the Watts area of Los Angeles, 1965. (Credit: Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

The night after the arrest, crowds attacked motorists with rocks and bricks, and pulled white drivers out of their cars and beat them.

The following morning, there was a community meeting helmed by Watts leaders, including representatives from churches, local government and the NAACP, with police in attendance, designed to bring calm to the situation. Rena also attended, imploring the crowds to calm down. She, Marquette and Ronald had all been released on bail that morning.

The meeting became a barrage of complaints about the police and government treatment of Black citizens in recent history. Immediately following the statement by Rena, a teenager grabbed the microphone and proclaimed that rioters planned to move into the white sections of Los Angeles.

The Rodney King Beating

Early on March 3, 1991, an intoxicated parolee named Rodney King led police on a high-speed car chase before stopping in Lakeview Terrace.

His subsequent beating, which left him with a fractured skull and cheekbone, was caught on video by Lakeview resident George Holliday, who forwarded it to local station KTLA. Within days, the footage of police repeatedly hitting a Black man with batons was airing on all major networks, drumming up nationwide outrage against the officers involved.

On March 15, LAPD Sergeant Stacey Koon and officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno were indicted for assault in the King beating, with Koon and Powell also charged with filing false police reports. The African American community endured another blow the following day, when 15-year-old Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by Korean grocer Soon Ja Du over a disputed shoplifting.

Shortly afterward, L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley formed the independent Christopher Commission, named for co-chair Warren Christopher, to investigate operations within the LAPD. In July, the commission published a report that detailed repetitive use of excessive force and recommended a new system of accountability, though Gates staunchly defended his practices.

On November 15, Du drew a sentence that included community service and suspended jail time, a decision that outraged Harlins’ family and supporters. Eleven days later, it was announced the trial for the four officers in the King beating would be moved from Los Angeles County to predominantly white Ventura County. In February 1992, the trial commenced with a 12-member jury that included one Latino, one Asian American and one half-African American.


The land that is now the suburb of Dixmoor was very barren while most of Cook county was developed. The area first was discovered in the 1820s as Bison began to migrate through the state of Illinois starting in Chicago all the way down to Vincennes, Indiana. This left a trail known as the “Vincennes Trace.” Eventually horses and stagecoaches would travel this trace and use it as a path.

No more activity happened in this area until the year 1907 when Grand Trunk Western Railroad laid tracks for a route from Chicago to Kankakee. In the year 1915 construction began on the Dixie Highway which would connect the Chicago area all the way down to Florida, this highway was dug through the area that would become Dixmoor and this brought passing motorists through to notice the area especially by the early 1920s when the road became more developed.

In the year 1922, Charles Special, a Chicago Heights man and land developer became interested in turning this area into a village of his own. He had to fight with the nearby communities like Blue Island and Harvey to prevent them from taking over these lands for annexation. Special ended up winning his fight to develop his own village as he owed 70 lots of land here. The old Buffalo Trace now became a road called Blue Island-Thorton Road. On January 15, 1923 the new town achieved incorporation and became the village of “Specialville.” Charles Special was the first village President until he passed away in 1928.

In the year 1929, villagers petitioned to the Secretary of State to change the name to “Dixmoor” since the Dixie highway cut straight through their community. In the year 1930, sewers, street lights, electricity and water services were provided. The community now thrived as many residents were employed by the many industrial metal factories in nearby Harvey including Anchor Harvey Components as an example.

In the year 1953, construction began on a new subdivision called “Forest Manor” which was opened up for residency in the year 1954. This community now had its first African American residents in this subdivision. This subdivision is the area bounded by 141st Street on the north, 144th Street on the south, Marshfield Avenue to Ashland Avenue on the east and Hoyne Avenue to Harvey Avenue on the west. Unlike other communities across Chicagoland Dixmoor was more welcoming of having black neighbors. Much of the racial strife mainly came from nearby Harvey.

The first racial incident was the Gin Bottle Riots of 1964 (pictured below) that occurred on August 16, 1964 when police arrested Blondella Woods for stealing a bottle of gin from Foremost Liquors (pictured below) at 2240 147 th Street in Dixmoor. There were claims that the store owner Michael Lapota beat the woman for stealing from the store because she was black but Lapota said he struggled with the woman because she would not let go of the liquor bottle. 400 protesters then showed up at 11 A.M. on August the 16 th to protest the incident because they felt the liquor store owner should have been arrested as well. By 8 P.M. the protest turned violent as protesters began smashing windows of the store, burning nearby buildings then began hiding in the bushes and between houses as they hurled bricks and stones at passing cars that were driven by white people which lead to 37 injuries. The police arrested 25 people involved in the incident and needed 225 police officers to stop the rioting that was not put down until 2 A.M. (Chicago Tribune Page 1 August 17, 1964).

Gin Bottle Riots of 1964 Foremost Liquors /> August 24, 1964 article detailing the Gin Bottle riots July 25, 1965 article about troubled boys and seeming gang activity in these suburbs

Besides the gin bottle riot of 1964 Dixmoor became a mixed race community without racial strife as most residents of the small town had in common that they were a part of the lower income scale and all a part of a high rate of poverty.

I am not positive if the Blackstone Rangers were involved in the Gin Bottle riots but I don’t doubt it because this was the year that the Rangers infiltrated the south suburbs. The Blackstone Rangers arrived in the Harvey Dixmoor area because of the racial strife between blacks and whites as whites in Harvey didn’t want blacks moving in as the community was changing color. A race war was about to be brewing and the Rangers were there to guide young black youths to fight back, especially a group called the “Black Elephants.” The founder of the south suburban Rangers and the Harvey Dixmoor Ranger founder/leader was 15 year old Jerome “General Jake” Crowder. These Rangers took on the name of “Harvey Dixmoor Rangers.”

It is very likely that Harvey and Dixmoor is the motherlands of all Black P Stone suburban activity then operations spread to other south suburban communities after Dixmoor but all in 1964, the town of Phoenix was next to have Rangers. The Rangers first made their presence known when they participated in a race riot in August of 1966 and sprayed Ranger graffiti all over the walls of an electronics store in Harvey.

/> August 5, 1966 article article about the Harvey riots and Dixmoor Rangers being implicated /> Part 2 or Harvey August 5, 1966 riot of the Dixmoor Rangers August 7, 1966 hard evidence the Rangers were in Dixmoor and Harvey August 7, 1966 closer up image of the Harvey Dixmoor Ranger graffiti, this is solid evidence Stones were here in 1966 Sammy Davis Junior

The Stones of Dixmoor got some notoriety for trying to shake down singing sensation and well known celebrity Sammy Davis Junior. Davis purchased the old Foremost Liquor Store at 147 th and Oakley in 1968 that was the site of the Gin Bottle Riots on 1964. The liquor store was only opened for about one year, and then the liquor license was taken away after underage teenage boys were spotted buying liquor in the store (Jet Magazine Page 59 May 29, 1969). The problem is the Black P Stones were allegedly guarding and operating this liquor store for Davis and expected him to pay the Stones $160,000 to refinance the liquor store but Davis had no interest in doing so and called the police for protection from the Stones (Chicago Tribune page 7 March 6, 1970).

October 22, 1970 article about murder by high ranking Stones and the harboring of the leaders October 21, 1970 article about the arrest of high ranking leaders of the Black P Stones involved in murder Harvey-Dixmoor Black P Stone founder Jerome Crowder, June 17, 1969 July 25, 1965 article about troubled boys and seeming gang activity in these suburbs /> August 22, 1972 article about Stones Killing a Disciple in Dixmoor January 5, 1970 Dixmoor Stones accused of shooting up a tavern for not paying taxes to Stones /> March 6, 1970 article about Sammy Davis Junior feeling threatened by Stones at one of his businesses he worked with the Stones on. A bonus section in this article is a murder case involving Stones June 17, 1969 article part 3 with photo of Jermaine "General Jake" Crowder June 17, 1969 article part 2 /> Black P Stones in the south suburbs of Dixmoor, Chicago Heights and Ford Heights Jun 17, 1969 /> March 7, 1970 article about Stones and Sammy Davis Jr. having the disagreement over an alleged shakedown /> March 7, 1970 article part 2 /> August 22, 1972 article about the slaying of a Black Disciple gang member at the hands of a Stone, proof Disciples were in Dixmoor back in these days August 8, 1968 racial violence and rioting at the Dixmoor/Harvey border August 7, 1968 article about rioting violence by Black P Stones in Dixmoor and Harvey as they shot at police officers. /> August 7, 1968 article part 2 /> August 11, 1968 article about the arrests of key Black P Stones and the shooting of police officers in Dixmoor and Harvey /> August 11, 1968 article part 2 August 8, 1968 another article about rioting in Dixmoor Harvey area and more about Black P Stones

I am not exactly sure when Black Disciples came to Dixmoor but I believe it was the 1960s, perhaps the same year the Stones arrived.

The suburb of Dixmoor would continue to experience growing gang influence and violence in the 1970s and 1980s this was apparent in January of 1983 when two high school aged gang members went to rob people in the parking lot of the Western Health Spa and Adult Book Store located at 14511 Western Ave. The two youths targeted Donato Gentile as they pointed a gun at him and demanded money, Gentile instead laughed at the two of them and this apparently angered the gunman who then shot Gentile dead, the shooter was a known gang member according to the Tribune article (Chicago Tribune page 16 January 31, 1983).

Latino migration eventually came to the suburb in the 1980s and among the migration came Latin Kings, Latin Counts and Satan Disciples. The Dixmoor suburb still has higher than normal crime and is considered one of the more dangerous suburbs in comparison to the majority of Chicago suburbs.

Gin Riots - History

Cook County, 17 miles S of the Loop. Dixmoor has the unusual distinction of having thousands of people daily drive right over it: Interstate 57 passes over the village&aposs streets. Despite this intrusion, Dixmoor still exhibits important traces of the history of the region. Its eastern boundary parallels theLittle Calumet River and the old Blue Island – Thornton Road. This is the path of the original Vincennes Trace that in the 1820s and 1830s reached from the small settlement of Chicago down to Vincennes in Indiana.

Western Avenue constitutes the western edge of the village. Since 1915 this part of Western Avenue has been Dixie Highway, a designation which came as national roadways were being established and entrepreneurs sought to link points in the north, including Chicago, with passable roads going through to Florida. The tracks of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad cut through the center of Dixmoor. From 1907 to 1926, an interurban from Chicago to Kankakee, the Chicago and Southern Traction Company, ran alongside the Grand Trunk line through the village.

Because of its proximity to industrial jobs in Blue Island and Harvey, the area&aposs original development was residential. To counter attempts of both Blue Island and Harvey to annex the area, residents voted for incorporation in 1922. As the owner of more than 70 lots, Charles Special played a key role in the annexation process and served as the first president of the village. It was in his honor that the village, for a while, was named Specialville. In 1929 residents petitioned the secretary of state to change the name of the village to Dixmoor, possibly to recognize proximity to Dixie Highway.

After incorporation, the village provided municipal services including electric streetlights, sewers, and Lake Michigan water. From the time of incorporation, much of the employment base for Dixmoor was tied to the metal-fabricating industries in Harvey. The large Wyman-Gordon plant was situated partially in both communities. The loss of these manufacturing facilities in the Harvey area from the 1960s through the 1980s adversely affected both employment and municipal revenues for Dixmoor and its surrounding towns.

Integration in Dixmoor began in the 1960s. By 1990, 58 percent of the population was African American, a ratio that remained the same in 2000. While racial integration was largely peaceful, during the summer of racial unrest across the country in 1964, Dixmoor gained unusual notice due to a brief (one-day) confrontation and riot. The “Gin Bottle Riot” involved over 1,000 persons and local and state police. In the closing years of the twentieth century, new housing starts brought growth in Dixmoor. Because the community is landlocked, this new growth came as redevelopment of existing property.

Water and Gin: A Selective History of London Riots

You know you&rsquore in a country with a solid civil-rights tradition when, four days into a massive riot, the authorities begin to talk about using water cannon.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced today that &ldquowe now have in place contingency plans for water cannon to be available at 24 hours&rsquo notice.&rdquo Meanwhile, the rioting, which began in London, and had already spread to Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham, has spread even farther. Police have arrested 108 suspected rioters in Manchester and Salford, and another 90 in Nottingham. In Birmingham, three men, protecting their businesses from looters, were killed when a car drove into them.

I don&rsquot pretend to understand Cameron&rsquos tactical and ethical concerns as he understands them. It may be that calling in the army &mdash a move he said he has dismissed after some consideration &mdash would create more problems than it would solve. Nevertheless, one thing is clear to any student of history: the English riot has always been a more benign, less ambitious cousin to riots in other parts of the world. It might destroy property and claim lives, but it does not, generally, topple governments or force serious adjustments to the social order.

Many of the riots that gripped London in the 18th century have an oddly modern feel to them, since they involved the perennial problems of substance abuse, government regulation (or its absence) and ethnic rivalry. In the early 18th century, eager to create a domestic market for corn, Parliament effectively de-regulated the distillation and sale of intoxicating spirits &mdash including brandy, and especially gin. The result was a boom in the booze industry that led to a boom in crime, beggary and infant mortality. In 1721, a commission of Westminster justices declared that the proliferation of gin shops:

Is the principall cause of the increase of our poor, and of all our vice and debauchery among the inferior sort of people, as well as of the felonies and other disorders committed in and about this town.

In 1735, a commission of Middlesex justices reported: &ldquoUnhappy mothers habituate themselves to these distilled liquors, whose children are born weak and sickly, and often look shrivel&rsquod and old, as though they numbered many years. Others again give it to their children&hellipand learn them even before they can go to taste and approve this certain destroyer.&rdquo

Even the Age of Reason had its crack babies.

The upshot: in 1736, after many such commissions, Parliament was finally prevailed upon to restrict the spirits trade. The decision did not go over well, either with distillers or sellers, and certainly not with drinkers. These rioted constantly and reportedly murdered anyone they suspected of snitching on unlicensed gin-sellers to the magistrates. The restrictive laws became unenforceable. It wasn&rsquot until 1751, by which time the curtailment of gin -drinking had become a national crusade, that Parliament managed to pass a law with real teeth. The rioters had lost, but only after a long struggle.

Ranking just after gin as a leading cause of rioting was the presence of the Irish. As M. Dorothy George notes in London in the 18th Century, &ldquoFaction fights between English and Irish seem to have been common.&rdquo In 1736, at Spitalfields, one of these swelled into a pitched battle that lasted two days, defeated a company of militia, and required the mobilization of the Guards. In 1740, angered at being burned in effigy on St. Patrick&rsquos Day, &ldquoa great body&rdquo of Irishmen, of whom &ldquoover twenty were armed with cutlasses, and thirty or forty more with sticks and bludgeons&rdquo attacked the butchers of Clare Market. By the 1780s, George reports, &ldquothe sectarian feuds of the early part of the century had subsided.&rdquo

In the wake of so much bad news &mdash the wild flights and crashes of the Dow, the drop in uor national credit rating, the coming double dip &mdash the riots currently sweeping through England have a horrible way of looking like the beginning of the end of the world. If history&rsquos any guide, they won&rsquot be. And they shouldn&rsquot signal the end of anyone&rsquos sanity.

What is Gin?

The history of gin starts with it being used as herbal medicine in the 16th century, helping to treat gallstones, gout and stomach issues. Today, it’s an alcoholic drink that contains juniper berries, along with a wide range of different flavoured botanicals, creating a drink where no two are identical.

Without juniper berries, gin would be considered a vodka and not gin. Legally, the alcohol content of gin must always be at least 40% in volume to be classed as a gin. Although most commonly mixed with tonic water, some consumers also enjoy it straight. Gin contains less sugar than many other spirits, so is considered friendlier on your waistline than many tipples.

Who Invented Gin?

Gin’s main flavouring, juniper, has been added to alcohol dating clear back to as early as 70 A.D. Italian monks in Solerno around the 10th century were even using juniper to bring pleasant flavourings to their distilled spirits.

However, the forefather to the gin we drink today originated in the 16th century in Holland, when the Dutch began producing a spirit called jenever or Genever. The liquor contained juniper, which helped to cover up the bitter taste of the malt wine base. The drink was especially popular in the Netherlands and Belgium during this time.

Many historians have claimed that the Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius was the originator of gin, but this statement is false. We know this because a play called ‘The Duke of Milan’ referenced gin drinking when Franciscus was only nine years old.

The city of London has also played a key role in the history of gin. The English came across it when they were fighting the Spaniards in the Thirty Years’ War in the early 1600s. On their return Londoners quickly adopted the tipple as their own.

1920-1933 - USA Prohibition

In America, the combination of a spirits-based drinking culture where men often worked away from home for months at a time did not please the campaigning Women's Christian Temperance Union. Saloons offered free lunches, which could lure in the unsuspecting worker to spend his wages on booze rather than feeding the family, and functioned as a Mecca for violence and prostitution. In an attempt to cure the nation's growing drink problem, American senators signed the Volstead Act, prohibiting recreational consumption of any beverage stronger than 0.5% alcohol by volume.

In 1919, America embarked on 'the noble experiment', and those distilleries which could not switch to production of 'medicinal' alcohols shut down.

Americans turned for booze and entertainment to the wonderful world of the speakeasy, beautifully designed venues which combined, bar restaurant and club in one. Although firmly illegal - and often shut down - these places drew women as well as men, unlike the old saloons which had been, but for the odd hooker, all-male haunts. These underground venues were often decorated far more luxuriously than their legal predecessors, and featured elaborate systems to conceal all signs of boozing within seconds of the alarm being raised.

Although the better speakeasies used quality gin and other smuggled spirits, there was plenty of toxic home-made hooch around. As well as illicit stills, industrial alcohol such as antifreeze was denatured to remove poisons from the ethyl alcohol. If the purification process was not handled by a skilled chemist the results could be deadly and this is where the phrase 'to die for' originates.

This is the period when 'Bathtub gin', made by mixing 'purified' industrial alcohol with juniper oil and glycerine originated. The term could be due to old bath tubs being used for the mixing process or some say because the vessels it was made in were usually so tall that the only tap they would fit under was that of the bath tub.

Perversely, Prohibition proved to be good news for British distillers as thirsty American's were prepared to pay dearly for English gin which they recognised as being a premium product, the 'Real McCoy'. English distillers sent regular shipments to islands in the West Indies and Canada, the favoured routes for the smugglers.

When Prohibition was finally repealed on 5th December 1933, demand for London dry gin was many times what it had been at the beginning of Prohibition. Post Prohibition it boomed. In a world mired in first depression then world war, gin and cocktails became synonymous with glamour.

The Gin Craze and Gin Riots

I have this friend, hitherto known as Southwick, whom happens to be one of the few people I know on this earth with an equal love for good gin. I know some Tanqueray drinkers, a few Plymouth drinkers (not bad, it was Winston Chuchill's gin of choice. ), and of course the obligatory Bombay drinkers (as though they're devoid of any sense of taste). Even my brother, my own flesh and blood, is a Hendricks gin drinker (look, the Scots can make damn fine whisky, but not gin). But you see, Southwick, he understands all too well that the best gin this planet has to offer, is Beefeater London Dry Gin. You know, the one with the 11th century Tower of London guard on the label-known as a beefeater because their pay included large chunks of beef to keep them strong.

So what's the point of all this? Well there really isn't one, other than to thank him publicly for the Beefeater of his I drank last weekend. Well, that and I was doing some reading earlier on one of the periods of history that's always fascinated me, namely the Gin Craze of the 18th century-the pre-cursor to the '90s crack epidemic, and on account of Wikipedia having terribly little information on it, I thought I'd write a little about it.

Gin, originally known as genever, was invented in Holland by a doctor named Franciscus de la Boe, also known as Dr. Sylvius. It was primarily a Dutch thing, with little exposure to the rest of the world. That all changed in 1689 though, when William III-a Dutchman-took over the English throne. The King made it the official pouring spirit at the palace, and later decided to introduce the drink to the masses, in what turned out to be a pretty huge mistake.

You see, previous to this watered down beer was the beverage of choice across most of Europe. The alcohol in the beer made it safe to drink (as opposed to water) and yet the alcohol content was low enough to make it hydrating. So in what sounds like actually a pretty entertaining existence, people lived life pretty much perpetually buzzed. As alternatives to beer you had wine and brandy (which were almost exclusively French, so unavailable during the dozens of wars), Port and Madeira (the American colonial drink of choice) from Portugal, and Sherries from Spain-all of which were stronger but also more expensive and not available regularly to the common man.

So when William III brough gin to the masses, he thought he was doing them a favor, while at the same time thumbing his nose at France as he increased taxes on French brandy to fuel an increase in English gin production. As it turns out, with it being so easy to make (it's just neutral spirits steeped in juniper berries and other botanicals) and virtually untaxxed, within 20 years it became readily available in large quantities at very low prices to everyone in London. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that you had a series of economic policies resulting in decreased food prices and increease incomes, so people had a fair amount of disposable income. By 1725 you had over 6,000 shops where gin and other spirits were sold-and that's in just London, at the time a city of 700,000 people roughly the size of Columbus, OH. And that doesn't take into account the people selling gin like 18th century ballpark hot-dog vendors on the streets, nor the market stalls and even wheelbarrows (seriously) that people wheeled around town full of gin for sale.

So as you can imagine, this sort of becomes a problem. As Lord Harvey wrote at the time, "drunkenness of the common people was universal the whole town of London swarmed with drunken people from morning till night." The cities population began to plummet as people literally drank themselves to death, at sunrise each morning bodies lined the streets of the working class neighborhoods of London, both living and dead while the gutters were filled with shit and vomit. Women, whom actually drank more gin than men (it was also called Mother Genever and Mother's Ruin), were consistently miscarrying as they drank themselves senseless and destroyed their fetuses. In case you think I'm overblowing isolated pockets, this wasn't an isolated things-this was occuring across nearly the whole of London.

Whole industries went bankrupt as their employees wouldn't show up to work, instead choosing to drink gin all day. There are even a dozen reports of spontaneous combustion in London that were reported in London and attributed to gin, which was being distilled most everywhere it possibly could be within the city, and with no regards whatsoever to quality. So as you can see, England had a wee bit of a problem on their hands. While I think we're all pretty much universally united in agreement that drinking is good, having the majority of your workforce be consistently plastered, unwilling to work, unable to pro-create, and dying in the streets isn't exactly a feather in the cap of a King.