Dartmouth Bootlegger’s Role in Ending Prohibition
A 1926 mob gun battle on a farm at Salters Point in Dartmouth involving members of the notorious King Solomon's Gang and the Patriarca Crime Family of Providence was a key moment in the U.S. government's war on alcohol during the Prohibition Era of the 1920s.
Max Fox, born in Austria, was a lieutenant for a Russian immigrant named Charles Solomon, a.k.a "King Solomon." Black-Duck.org says that "Solomon was a racketeer in Boston who controlled narcotics, prostitution, and illegal gambling during the 1920s and '30s" Boston.
A Boston Customs director said King Solomon "was as notorious here as Capone is in Chicago," according to the site.
Max Fox was a rum runner during prohibition and had a partner in Dartmouth named Charles "Charlie" Travers, born in 1906. After serving three years in the Coast Guard, Travers started lobstering out of New Bedford with his brother.
While lobstering one day, Travers discovered a cache of alcohol that had been stashed on the rocks by rum runners. He sold the alcohol in New Bedford for a hefty price and quickly abandoned lobstering.
After several run-ins with the law and other mobsters, the 21-year-old Travers bought the vessel Black Duck out of Gloucester. The Black Duck was said to outrun anything the Coast Guard had to offer. He also began making his own alcohol at the Seaview Poultry Farm in Fairhaven.
Early one morning in late December 1929, Travers and three others were delivering alcohol to Newport, Rhode Island, aboard the Black Duck. A Coast Guard patrol boat was waiting in the fog.
According to History.com, Boatswain Alexander C. Cornell "knew the vessel in an instant – the Black Duck, a rum runner that could easily make speeds of over 30 knots and which had evaded capture on numbers on occasion."
Cornell gave the order to fire.
Travers was injured, and the crew was killed. Charges were filed against Travers but were later dropped.
History.com says public anger over the attack on the Black Duck played a role in the eventual repeal of probation in 1933.
Charlie Travers was sentenced to prison following a raid on his Fairhaven farm but was released after about a year to join the Navy and World War II.
Meanwhile, Max Fox had a daughter named Ida Fox, who married Harold H.J. Clasky, the New Bedford City Councilor and State Senator for whom New Bedford's Clasky Common Park is named.
Small world, eh?
Thanks to my colleague Chris McCarthy for his research and amazing knowledge about most everything.