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Scoundrels and Saloons

Whisky Wars of the Pacific Northwest 1840–1917

by Rich Mole

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social history, pacific northwest
list price: $9.95
also available: eBook
category: History
published: 2012
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Association of Book Publishers of BC
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Scoundrels and Saloons: Whisky Wars of the Pacific Northwest, 1840-1917

This book describes the role and influence of liquor and the liquor trade in BC. The unfolding story and the many fascinating characters involved —from the late 17th century of the fur traders to the 19th century of the colonists through to the first third of the 20th century—are dramatic and tragic. This history includes repeated economic deals between Europeans and First Nations sealed by liquor with its devastating consequences. Also presented are the battles over whisky’s production, distribution, and the control and consumption of alcohol. Government interventions over the issue as well as the increasing involvement of the anti-saloon league, temperance and prohibition movements are narrated and critiqued also.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2013-2014.

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From the days of the fur trade, one constant thread weaves its way through the tumultuous history of frontier British Columbia, Washington and Oregon—the war over liquor. Between 1840 and 1917, the whisky wars of the west coast were fought by historical heavyweights, including Matthew Baillie Begbie (the “Hanging Judge”) and Wyatt Earp, and a contentious assortment of murderous whisky traders, angry Natives, corrupt policemen, patronage-loving politicians and trigger-happy drunks.


Liquor was a serious and life-threatening issue in 19th-century west coast settlements. In 1864 Victoria, there were at least 149 drinking establishments to serve a thirsty population of only 6,500. Despite various prohibition efforts, the trade in alcohol flourished.


Recreating British gunboat arrests, the evangelistic fervour of Billy Sunday and the tireless crusade of the Anti-Saloon League, author Rich Mole chronicles the first tempestuous and tragic struggles for and against having a drink in the Pacific Northwest.

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