History of Prohibition
McLhinney’s Speakeasy Museum & International Market opened in July 2016 and offers visitors a glance into the past, showcasing the colorful history of the Prohibition Era in the United States, Maryland, and in particular, the beautiful City of Havre de Grace.
Many folks are not aware Maryland was the only state to ignore Prohibition. Encouraged by then, Governor Richie, to indulge in spirits as a right, Maryland was soon knows as the wettest state in the land.
Both Baltimore and Havre de Grace were well known “wet destinations” during Prohibition.
A Sun article notes, “From the early 1920s up until the mid 40s, Havre de Grace had a reputation as being ‘Little Chicago’ because of The Graw Racetrack (1912 – 1950) and a circuit of regular gamblers, bootleggers, mobsters, and houses of ill repute.” According to the same article, they noted Havre de Grace, “It was Al Capone’s favorite vacation spot.”
Regional folks warned their children to stay away from the shenanigans going on in the River Rat City. Hard to believe this was once our beautiful city’s reputation! Many residents of Havre de Grace were weened on stories of their elders who lived through the era. Stories are told of pool sharks, card players with an edge, and establishments that hosted all the fun and entertainment.
History of Museum Location
The original owner of McLhinney’s was one of 11 children raised by John and Sarah Fudge McLhinney during this era. Stories were told of how upset Sarah was when Walter bought the news stand at 212 N Washington St. because it was a pool hall. He assured his mother he was opening a legal news stand and newspaper distribution business, and that he did in 1923. Many of the items to be displayed were found within the treasures he and his son, Charles McLhinney saved for the community to enjoy.
We are lucky enough to have Eleanor McLhinney Ferguson still with us to tell some stories of the earliest days in the store…as well as Mary McLhinney. Every day we receive visits or calls from local residents wanting to add their stories. We are privileged to undertake this project. The news stand became a gathering spot for those wishing to purchase the daily Racing Form, before heading off to their favorite speakeasy or the race track. It was the gathering spot for hundreds of paper boys as well. Many went on to become doctors, dentists, lawyers, bankers, government officials, judges, and successful business professionals and still return today to speak of how they were groomed to be upstanding citizens and gentlemen.
Current Museum Video Project
The museum is currently arranging video sessions on Sundays from 12 to 3 pm. If you have a story you would like to tell, a photo to share, a relic from the era, please visit, or call the museum and set up a time to be included. The museum will showcase video and stories told by those there to witness these times. So far their stories sound more like a training camp for pool and card players to many of us. It seems almost everyone in town drank! No one was hiding the fact.
Those telling the stories would have been very young…..but as they come in to tell their stories their smiles could not be bigger! We know we may have missed one of the most comical times to have been a resident in this beautiful city. So come and join in on the fun.
Now Showing Phase One – Prohibition Does Not Fly in Baldemore!
The first phase of the museum gives the history of Prohibition, bootlegging stories of Havre de Grace, and some things made famous because of this era of Prohibition and bootlegging. Every day new things arrive or are discovered that have yet to be displayed. The second phase will open in early 2017 and will include a historical tour of the old speakeasy establishments and a pub crawl! The tour will include photos, stories, and suggestions of fun things to know about the time period.
Shopping Shopping & More Shopping
The museum is also home to shopping that includes unique and inexpensive resales items, handcrafted jewelry, custom stained glass, imported gifts from Peru and Mexico, collectible Chesapeake Bay model boats, unique signs, driftwood, Striper Life apparel, natural spa soaps, oils, candle products, tourist gifts, historical photos, and art.
Watch our Facebook Page at McLhinney’s Speakeasy Museum for pop up sales!
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