tv Bob Batchelor The Bourbon King CSPAN November 11, 2019 10:15am-11:16am EST
today. as many of you know, lunch and learn as a monthly program where we invite community experts to share their knowledge of interesting aspects of cincinnati history, culture, and arts. this program was started on the suggestion of one of our members, one of you all, and it fits neatly into our history. for nearly 200 years our historic houses serve as an important community gathering place for prominent cincinnati families such as those of martin baum, nicholas longworth, and, of course, charles taft. each resident plays an important role in shaping the history, art and culture of cincinnati, this series celebrates their legacies as well as the new way our city continues to evolve and change. the complete schedule of all of our fall programs include our upcoming lunch and learns are available on our website which
is www.taft museum.org. i would like to tell you about our talk today. today we have offered of newly released book, "the bourbon king: the life and crimes of george remus, prohibition's evil genius." bob batchelor is here with us today to share the story of george remus, the criminal mastermind and bootleg king who built a bourbon empire that stretched from his towering since any mention across america at the dawn of prohibition. bachelor is a critically acclaimed best-selling cultural historian and biographer. he has published widely on american history and literature including books on stan lee, bob dylan, "the great gatsby," madmen and john updike. he earned his doctorate in english literature from university of south florida. he teaches in the media journalism and film department at miami university in oxford
ohio and lives in blue ash ohio. following the talk today we have a project on site with copies of the bourbon king available for purchase. threthrough unique partnershipsd the book industry, the project can donate a book to a disadvantage reader every time a book is purchased through the organization. so by purchasing a book for yourself or for a loved one, you are also helping a young reader in need. mr. batchelor will be available to answer one-on-one questions and sign your copy of the book following the lecture. we are so delighted to present this program to you today so please join me in welcoming bob batchelor to the taft museum of art. [applause] >> thank you. i can't think of a better place really in cincinnati and the tap using to talk about george remus.
lots of you asking questions for begin about what is the connection between the tasks and our criminal genius george remus? we'll get to that. if i forget, somebody please ask that question. i'm a historian. i love big dates. i love centennial school hundred anniversary celebrations, 50 years. so as we prepare for the 100th anniversary of the jazz age and 100th anniversary of the posted act of prohibition, that isn't a better time than to study somebody who history is really forgotten. you might be surprised because some of us, we have heard george remus. there are cincinnati ends i get approached all the time once people find that i've written this book, they see my great-grandfather was a paperboy and george remus gave him a ten dollars tip, that's when ten dollars was a lot of money. george, we saw on working out done at the athletic club and there's a lot of remus cited, a
lot of remus interest in this area. once you go outside of the cincinnati region, there's almost no recognition at all. one of the goals in writing this book was to bring this really fascinating character to life. was really an interesting set of circumstances around george remus. so we'll have a little discussion today about that. the first thing that people ask me whenever i determine i'm writing the bourbon king is how could you get interested in this person? how did you come across george remus? about 17 years ago a very prominent historian named stanley cutler who became really famous for investigating watergate and writing about watergate, he was editing a reference collection. many of you might as you did in school called the dictionary of american history and that's what teachers use to send their students to find out about american history.
he was putting out a new edition and he asked me which my writing a little essay on bootleggers next i was like bootleggers? why would we want to talk about that? in that research, 17 years ago i ran across remus, and like a bad song from the 1980s, it stuck stuck in my head for 17 years. i was going nuts thinking about this guy. later i wrote this biography of "the great gatsby." i treated not as if it were a person and wrote a book about this experience, this great american novel, and remus again comes up because some people say that remus was the model took some people say he was a model for jay gatsby. we will get into that more, but ran across remus again and so when i was looking for my next book project i thought to myself, i want to discover somebody who is been forgotten, whose story can tell us something so interesting about
today's world, and you can learn so much about what we're facing in the 2020s from studying the 1920s. so remus became it. that's how we get to george remus. i'm probably not telling you anything you don't know but there are no heroes in the story. it's a very complex story with a lot of kind of bad characters, even people who seem good for all of the longtime all of a sudden i would read a new story or read something else in the paper six month after they're doing something a role, they're doing something terrible. what's wrong with these people? if they are incredibly complex, just like we are today, incredibly complex people and it helps us understand the 1920s. it helps us understand today. we're going to dive right into george remus, the bourbon king. the story is large and there is no way we could go through this
whole story. i think the audiobook if you're into audiobooks, i think the audiobook is like 16 hours long. we can't to all the stories here so i thought i would boil it down to six numbers, these numbers will give you a flavor of george remus and hopefully make you want to learn more because it's a fascinating story. the first number is the number 13. the number 13 is significant because george remus was a german immigrant, and his family after bouncing around a little bit settled in chicago. at age 13 remus had to become the quote-unquote man of the family because his father had some health problems and some drinking problems. when not supposed to talk about those. but remus' father had some problems. he could not support the family. and so remus takes over at age 13. he had to drop out of school.
luckily for him, his uncle owned a pharmacy in suburban chicago, and because of that connection, george started working and he worked really hard. he was a smart kid before had to drop out of school. he was really athletic. even though he wouldn't look like an athlete how we would consider an athlete today, he was not 5'5" well overdue and repelled. he was built like like a fire hydrant, not an athlete but he was an amazing athlete. he did athletic feats that ensure none of us could of done on our best days. it's an interesting side story. remus begins this career in the pharmacy, and when he comes of age he passes the licensure to become a pharmacist. the interesting thing is that this places george remus at the heart of the community he liked
the attention. he liked the money and way past the licensure, which if i do get his license, in light and made himself to get older, he was only 19 and you lied to save 21 because this is an interesting side story. if he thought that a regulation or rule were unjust, he disobeyed it. so to him it may does sense that in, 19 euros couldn't be licensed, if you could pass the test you should get your license. within a year or so after getting his license he bought his uncles pharmacy and another pharmacy. this is a guy really is ambitious. remember, german immigrant
dropped out of school. this was about the best like he could have. he was already gaining wealth turkey started speculating in real estate deals and these kinds of things. very interesting early history. but what george remus does around 1902 is decided i'd had enough of the pharmacy. even though he is more successful probably than anybody else he knows and he decides to become a lawyer of all things. medicine wasn't for him. he thought it was all quackery. so decides to become a lawyer because george remus was a person who saw himself as bigger than life. he was like a character out of history who determines really early i want to be president of the united states and works really hard to get to that position. remus saw himself in these terms, i want to be bigger than life. and to him becoming a lawyer was a step in that direction.
so the number two number i will give you, the number two number is 300. 300 is important because after remus became one of the most famous criminal defense attorneys in america, he moves from chicago to cincinnati because within that 300-mile radius from cincinnati, just like today, it's a gateway to bourbon country. remus realized as a criminal defense attorney that if these petty thugs that i'm defending club violated probation can pay their fine by whipping out roles of 100-dollar bills and just tearing them off the top and paying the judge on the spot, if these knuckleheads can make hundreds or thousands, if i apply my genius to this principle, i can make millions are tens of millions. that's a george remus was one of the best criminal defense attorneys in america, already
famous across the united states as a criminal defense attorney, goes to the dark side. cincinnati is us gateway and he sets up headquarters half a mile from your at the old fitton hotel. so there's a hint, the first connection to the taft. the hotel owned by the fitton family and that is remus' headquarters for his entire run throughout the 1920s. he always keeps a suite of rooms at the fitton hotel. even after his rich enough to buy the remus building which is also just down the street. it's not a football parking lot but that's okay. it was there. there's a picture in the book of the old remus building so you would get to see that when you check out the book. 300-mile radius, kentucky do they call it, the best bourbon in the world. remus realized because he had been a pharmacist and because he was such a stellar lawyer, you
are actually legal ways to get our call into the marketplace. they called it medicinal alcohol. and bourbon isn't that great. i want some medicinal alcohol. wouldn't it be great that in that timeframe people, there wasn't the scientific advancement we have now, and are some therapeutic benefits to alcohol. there are uses for that, especially in an era in which a lot of advancements have yet to be made. remus knew from his own days as a pharmacist that doctors and pharmacists could write prescriptions, and it would allow people even during prohibition to take out a little bit of whiskey or bourbon or other substance once a week. and so he got access to those whiskey certificates, that's what they were called, whiskey certificates, if i get access to these whiskey certificates, i can take this alcohol out of the
government warehouses and put into the marketplace. but at the same time, remember, criminal mastermind, prohibitions evil genius, at the same time remus realized if i hire my own men to rob my other men at gunpoint, i can take this legal bourbon and i can take it into the black market. he sets up a series of distribution points. his major distribution point is a place that comes to be known as death valley because he had a fortified like an army four. he had hired an army as he started to make money, and this is about say 13 miles northeast -- northwest of the city. he sets up on an old farm, and then he sets up smaller depots all over cincinnati. all these places that many of you have traveled, he had a depot in hamilton. he had a depot in glendale.
he had different locations throughout this area where he then and out nationwide and he built this empire really from this 300-mile gateway out into the national marketplace. one journalist at the time quoted george remus is to bourbon what j. d. rockefeller was to oil. and remus, why think he is an evil genius, is he understood business even though he had no business training outside running his own pharmacy. so he set up a system that he called the circle, like j. d. rockefeller. if you can control production, you control distribution, you control pricing. you control every piece of the circle, then you make all the money. and remus found ways to make all the money, and it's very interesting. many of you have probably visited the bourbon trail.
i visited, my wonderful wife and i love to go down to bourbon country and see the tours here when they give you the tour and they start to mumble and fumble, when the hit 1920 and are not quite sure how to explain it, these were very proud families. and still today very proud people that run the distilleries, one of america's great industry. but in 1920, the things that happen that they don't want to talk about when you go to bourbon country is that probably george remus had come in and found way to buy up that bourbn and get it into the black market. my thinking as the george remus story becomes more public is that the distiller should embrace this story. it's part of their history. there's nothing you can do about it now. you might as well digging and find out what the real truth was. they were proud people and the national government had just declared in public enemy number
one. they could've wished for a fire or electricity, lightning strike, the only thing that would save them. their entire inventories were basically worth nothing. so remus, which is really kind of a strange thing, there are some people, myself included, that believe remus in some ways even though he is doing it all behind the scenes and black market, remus saved the bourbon industry by giving it at least some foundation throughout prohibition. this is along 13 years for america, and remus gave the bourbon industry although a bit of a slide through that era. so that's my number two number, 300. this next number might well you out of your socks a little bit but just bear with me. 9.62 billion, that's a large number, 9.62 billion is the number if you calculate it the
high-end, today's money, what remus was able to acquire into an half years. $9.62 billion. this is how george remus founded facebook or google or a high-tech company and into an half years old it into one of the biggest companies in the world in two and half years all from his mansion in price hill. it is an amazing facet of the story. i think if people realize, because in today's world we are all kind of numbed by numbers, some races that person is a million, like no big you. i did millionaire, maybe we start to get our attention, but remus at the high-end was in excess of $200 million in 1920 money, which if used the latest economic calculation, 9.62 is kind of the midrange. it could've been more than that. there are stories that george
remus and his men made so much money so quickly, their suits were stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars because the banks wouldn't accept any more deposit each day. they had limitations so they're running around with their giant stack stuffed in the coats and pants because if nothing else that with what you do with the money? it's coming in so fast they can't even make a place to hide it all. it's pretty amazing, and what this $9.62 billion allowed george remus to do was as we can imagine, live a big life. yet power. he built an army. he built a nationwide distribution network, and you lived like a king. he bought an estate in price hill and basically gutted it and put countless amount of money into remodeling mansion. he made it into one of cincinnati's most beautiful
homes, and he invited the cream of the crop, another tie to the tafts. they never accepted his invitations but he always invited in. the centerpiece of the price hill mansion was our fourth number, 175,000. this is the height in number when people say how much did george remus pay for the n-gram poorly put in in the spice of mansion? $175,000 in 1920 money. it was luxurious, perfumed water, special heating units. and this allowed them really to live a gatsby -esque lifestyle. people love to come to the mansion and swim in the pool and see the pool. it was quite a thing at that time. and in 1920 when he wanted wanted to be really fabulous, what did you mind your pool
with? you like it with what would tyler because that's the mark of really having made it. this was remus' signature. work with highlighting the pool, and has had $5000. the parties that he threw became legendary. the papers didn't cover them that much so people will tell you and you may have heard of a newspapers covered it, lots of reporters there. they really didn't. it was not, it became part of folklore. so much of the remus story is built on folklore and people telling other people and recollections later. one of the things i was able to do as he is doing is dig through all these materials that five years ago nobody could have done or ten years ago because today, because of digital resources you can pull together different story papers, newspaper articles. you can pull together archival information and kind of look at
the remus stories like a giant literary historical detective jigsaw puzzle. and so i spent a long time piecing together the stories. the mansion because the center point of that. the night that they debut the pool to the public, which george called the imaging bath after his second wife, imogene remus, who is a femme fatale also not a sweetheart. she is very much an interesting person, and she targeted george remus when they met in chicago. one of my favorite quotes soon after meeting george remus, she said to one of her friends, i will roll him for his role. i will marry him if i have to but i will roll him for marvel. i always joke with my wife, roll him for his role, like that kind of -- because remus was surrounded by thugs who did talk like that. it's funny when somebody when
you see a transcript that somebody has done the real -- they put -- it's really fun to read. imogene was a person who wanted to be famous. and in the early 20th century you got fame by being in the newspapers. one of the things that i encounter that people have not seen before, i was able to trackback for about a decade, she kept using different personas and different identities to change her personality and to change who she was and tried to get into the newspaper. one time she might try to get into the newspaper as gassy homes, which was her first marriage name and nickname. -- gus of the time she might be mrs. jean homes. of the time she used imogene. other times she used a imaging and she's all these different kinds of persona to try to get into the newspapers. when she met george remus, a
shooting star attorney turned bootlegger this person to want to be famous and wealthy, they intersect in a way that would lead to one of the biggest marriages of the 1920s and also one of the most despicable in america in the 1920s. it was a shooting star and the star is old, but it took a decade. that's one thing people don't realize. if you look at the newspapers and the number of words written about george remus, he probably wasn't quite the same as as babe ruth, i think he was at least as famous as warren g harding. the number of words spent covering george remus were astronomical and outlasted the entire decade. because he was famous in chicago on the front page of the "chicago tribune" come on papers nationwide, and he only got more famous. what hussein was his undoing. because like so many people who gained a lot of money, he
couldn't stay out of the newspapers. he courted the media. he was a masterful public relations manipulator. he was able to charm the sox awfully very hardened straightlaced mr. geithner reporters. because memo -- newspaper reported. he was charming. they said remus had a moving smile, and this is a quote the front page of the "chicago tribune." a moonbeam smile. one of the most charismatic men that people have ever met but at the same time he always carried brass knuckles. and yet a gold tipped weighted came, and george remus had no live. that weight was so he could be people with that cane, and there are many instances in which he bludgeoned people. one man almost to death for potentially, supposedly, may be fooling around with imogene.
that's what the kind of person george remus was. i don't know any living character that i could describe him like. somebody asked me that a couple weeks ago. i said he was maybe a little bit like lyndon baines johnson, maybe a little bit of joseph stalin. and i think maybe if he's a fictional character he's a little bit like hannibal lecter, silence of the lambs. [laughing] because he could be so charming, and he really make people love him. people will to this day tell you that george remus was a good guy, but he was not a good guy. he was a scary guy. so our next number is five. and five is important never for the remus story because when george remus, like today, a beautiful morning, sunny, not a cloud in the sky, when he stocked imaging outside the hotel, one of the very finest luxury hotels in the united
states, when he stalked her from that moment and then chased her through eden park in a crazy chase, 1920s movie scene almost, and forces her car off the road and then gets out. she pushes her young daughter who's birthday, 21st birthday next date back into the car, jumps out remus has approached her car. she goes to swing at him. he grabs her right arm with his left fist, punches her and then as she screams, he reaches in his pocket, pulls out a gun, sticks it in her stomach, pulls the trigger. five minutes from the time he stalked her outside the hotel to that point that he shoots her, five minutes. you probably have all driven that path. you're probably walked in. she essentially a shot right on the other side of the road from the springhouse gazebo. people think that they were coming down the other way but
they were actually coming straight through the stone archway past the conservatory and write down that way, right where the hairpin turn this before you get to the mirror lake and the gazebo. that's where the murder takes place. i was able to piece all those events together because if you talk to police officers for csi officers, they will tell you when a murder occurs people often, even eyewitnesses, they mess up the facts. that's why courts become, trials become so interesting. but because remus would later go on trial, he was forced to testify, and those transcripts still exist as far as i know, one copy at the yale university law library. donated by charlie taft is so if you get to look at those papers, you can see charlie tafts
location. you can almost feel his anger because of someone's testimony was deleted, he would go into the transcripts in the dark, pencil marks to the transcript, ououtcome like this person stutzman is out. it is an amazing story. i'd like to think of that little episode between george and imogene is like a grotesque dance. because people who were there watching it, they didn't know what was going on. there was rush hour in 1927 in cincinnati, and that was kind of the epicenter of rush hour traffic. people were hearing screeching tires. they were hearing bumpers. people were injured one another, and so many people didn't even hear this muffled gunshot but there were children playing nearby you the gazebo. there were families. when you start to piece this altogether, you see this kind of
grotesque dance imogene is coming out and then she is shot and bleeding and she gets kind of crawls to the taxi she had taken, flagstaff a passerby. they had off to bethesda hospital, and she is dead shortly thereafter. i think she probably died in the backseat of the car, of the guy who picked her up, but her daughter says she was still weeping but i think she did that just to be kind to the family members. so remus goes from one of the criminal masterminds of the 20s, early 20th century to a murderer. it's an amazing story. he loses his temper their he's a temperamental guy. you can imagine someone who carries brass knuckles around who runs the criminal empire is going to be temperamental. he had created a plea called
temporary maniacal insanity. and he created that for an air named alice when he defended him in chicago here alice killed his wife and a hotel in chicago remus was his attorney yet traveled quite a bit in cincinnati. he determined i'm going to use this same thing in defending myself. so he defends himself when he goes up on trial against charlie taft. charlie taft is the son of william howard taft. william howard taft is now chief justice of the supreme court, and our letters in which william howard taft tells his golden bun, immaculate son, who is supposedly maybe a future presidential candidate, don't do it. don't let remus get the best of you. he will try every trick in the
book. because what people in cincinnati didn't realize, in chicago attorneys either loved or hated remus. the ones who loved him called in the polling of the bar, which again speaks to the area that he put on, this charismatic overtone. people who didn't like him called him weeping pleading remus. because remus made the law a a joke. he would do anything to manipulate a jury. i'd like to think of him as kind of the johnny cochran of early 1900 chicago. [laughing] he would do anything. he would widely gesticulate and throws arms up in the heir. he would have his clients passed out. he would pull his hair out. there are many accounts where he would pick a fight with the opposing counsel or andy would end up in fisticuffs. he would do anything to get the jury on his side, and juries love this stuff.
so remus goes up against charlie taft, and william howard taft predicted it. he's like this is going to turn into a sensation. and newspapers from around the country since reporters to cover this trial. they set up special telegraph lines and telephone lines so that the story could get out. so journalism and the media plays a really interesting sidelight to this story because the media made remus even more famous. he was constantly on the front pages, and reporters loved him. so he continually made the front pages and he was able from the very beginning to manipulate the potential juror pool. people are bad cincinnati knew what happened because he had his first unofficial press conference probably the next morning after the murder. he carried forced at the jail cell, and reporters lined up.
because just like in chicago where reporters knew that he was going to be great for a sound bite, they knew that remus was going to give them a real show. they wanted to sell newspapers. this was the most competitive time in american media history in terms of newspapers going after other newspapers, so everybody sit reporters to cover this trial. it was amazing. there are accounts of hundreds and hundreds of people waiting outside the courthouse just down the street to try to gain admission. this was a spectacle. this was bigger than the o.j. trial. the only difference is that wasn't the television aspect. there wasn't otherwise, this has the ramifications of an o.j. simpson like trial. remus is at the center of it, and charlie taft is at the center of it. charlie taft, he really is a golden boy. he was a hamilton county prosecutor.
he had a brilliant political career ahead of him. our sixth number, which if it isn't also an interesting one, is 19. and again it's connected to time. 19 minutes is the amount of time the jury deliberated before quitting george remus -- acquitting george remus on the grounds of temporary maniacal insanity. because there are jurors and the been sequestered for quite some time, they decided to have lunch as well. so the 19 minutes was the deliberation and then they took advantage of having a free lunch, and then came back in and declared george remus innocent on grounds of insanity. the warfare between taft and remus was not only in the front pages, but it was visceral here there are stories of remus going up across the prosecutor stable sticking his finger in taft's
faced during him to fight. because he questioned taft's mainly because that was one of his tricks. at one point it got so bad that remus pretended to pass out. and most of been quite a spell because doctor showed up and they put ice packs on it. it took him out of the courtroom. it was an amazing scene, and what the most telling scene was the jurors started crying. they are actually weeping, and remus knew from that point i have them. i have them. and so for the rest of the trial, anytime that taft or one of his fellow prosecutors would say something, remus would let out a loud cough or he would waive a red hanky or he would chortle. all of these different words the newspaperman at the time try to -- remus' guttural yells and he which is trying to drown at
charlie taft because he knew he already had the jury one. there are some rumors that remus got to the jurors, he paid them off. i could find no proof of that but i'll tell you, the most surprising thing about studying george remus in the 1920s, this is my second book on basically the 1920s, people love "the great gatsby" aspect of the 1920s. they love the jazz age. they love the idea of these magnificent parties. we all get the idea of gatsby in her head and dancing girls and show tunes and things like that. but people hate prohibition, hate it with a passion. a black mark on american history. and so a lot of sources and a lot of material from the 1920s have just disappeared. i tried to track down the dress imaging were because is called as an exhibit and kind upon all
those exhibits. if we could find those today, they would be priceless. it would reveal so much more about this story cincinnati, since in its role in american at the time, it was all either torn away or stolen. i have a source that i can't tell you about but i just ended, can't can't take the persons name, a source in the clerk's office who said it's all just simply gone. it's an interesting thing. remus gets let off. the newspapers begin to call that jury the christmas jury. because he was let off right before christmas, and one of the jurors was actually quoted saying, george had a really tough christmas last year so we decided to give him a treat this year. [laughing] the night that he is acquitted, he is still detained because the judge and taft are so angry, they say we're going to send them to the state hospital for the criminally insane.
so he is not freed. he has to go through a series over the next six months, he is kept behind bars. he has to go through a series of trials to try to win his freedom pics and now you can picture this. the second that he tells his driver to force imogene's taxi off the road saying, gets out of the car saying, grabs her, still saying. post a trigger, insane. the moment he goes off to the woods and parks, saying again. that is what was determined and the state was not going to let him off. the first trial he's trying to prove, i was insane for that one second, that one split second and then in the second trial he's trying to actually say that he is now sane. so some of the same doctors, the psychologist which they called
-- they said at one trial he is insane, and the next aisle that he is sane. so it's the same people testifying about the state of his mental acuity. it's really an amazing story. i barely even touched on imaging and a even touched on franklin dodge, this movie star prohibition federal agent who helps put remus behind bars but then runs off with imogene and they spent two years filching his fortune spending millions and millions of dollars. they invest in horse tracks in florida. they smuggle money into canada. there are all these things that they do. they stripped the mansion. imogene go so far, remember, roll him for his role, she takes all the monograms in the mansion that say gr and she changes them
to fd for franklin dodge. she is very vindictive as they stripped the mansion at all of its art and artwork and all the pottery, everything beautiful and wonderful. and when remus gets out of jail when he is caught the first time, he goes back to the mansion and everything is gone. his clothes are i in a pile on e back porch. and there is one set of man shoes there, and they are a large man shoes, reglan dodge was well over six-foot, one over 200 pounds. remus was a small guy. one pair of shoes that she left that were franklin's. the house is true. remus fell to his knees and wailed in dismay because he lost everything. but this story, we can only touch on just a little bit in the time we have today, but it's a phenomenal story of agreed, of -- greed -- of social and
economic structures, government influence in government corruption. and it's a deep story that gives us insight into the kinds of things that we face today, the kinds of things that we still have two experience. so as a historian my favorite book -- books are the ones that nolan aluminate attire and tells a new story about somebody maybe the history has forgotten, but gives us a new window on ways to examine our own lives. so i would love to take questions. i thank you very much for being here today. thank you. [applause] >> do you believe that he would have made so much money if prohibition had not been illegal? >> that's a good question. i think it took prohibition to
run the prices of uncle up as much as they were. now, if you read the book you'll find this out, it's an interesting point. remus was too greedy. he couldn't stop with the money, but his plan was pretty good. he wanted to corner, he wanted a bourbon monopoly and he could then use to sell bourbon overseas and the candidate and mexico which is an ingenious idea, but he was too greedy. he got caught and his empire started to get broken up before he could ever enacted that plan. the once prohibition is ended, this is exactly what the bourbon cartel did. they came in in a consolidated everything. remus more left taught them the methodology that they would use after prohibition to set up these large conglomerates. thank you. >> can you tell us more about
the episode with the bar of soap? >> the bar of soap? [inaudible] >> one of remus' many tricks. one of remus' great tricks is to listen to somebody testify and get so angry, he must have come yet a skill of making himself read, read in the face and he would slip a little sliver of soap into his mouth and be foaming at the mouth. [laughing] .. he didn't. he loved him. that's why i can't ascribe
him to anybody else because i can't imagine somebody -- he's not like bill gates. he maybe was as rich as bill gates for a minute but he was much more charismatic. it's a phenomenal story and thank you for reminding me of that. as one of remus's manytricks . >>. [inaudible] >> it was at formosa and eight and he had a very large lot. he basically had the entire block and you can go online if you look in the right places, there is insurance documents and deeds. you can see the actual blueprints because the community was laid out for insurancepurposes . from what i gather and i've walked that ground, and look at google maps from today. they extended one of the roads that ended at the street and they extended it
through what would have been the larger part of remus's property and it seems to me that's exactly or just off where the pool was so when they extended the street, they had to turn the pool over but there are rumors and maybe some of you can tell me about this if you know them, there are people with pieces of the pottery from the school still in price hill. i was talking to one person and she said i have a piece of that pool, it's in my birdfeeder. give that to a museum or something. not only is it required but it's a piece of his memorabilia. i would love to go out there spelunking and looking around but i don't want to dig in somebody's yard, idon't want the police to show up and me digging around . the mansion was pulled down in 1934. and we can't prove hundred percent but i think it was an entirely a ponzi scheme . remus believe it or not married again.
he married his longtime assistant named blanche watson and she is maybe the most and a dramatic interesting person in the whole story . he made her quite rich and all of her friends in the 1920s and he used her to launder money for decades . they later got married. i think partially out of convenience but partially because in that era of, a wife could not testify against her husband so remus was always afraid the irs was coming after him and was trying to get him for all that money he made so by marrying her he solidified their money. they pulled the mansion down in 1934 and basically one of blanche's colleagues owned that whole plant, plot and owned across the street as well so in the 1950s johnny florio who was al capone's mentor and later went to new york city and meant toward lucky luciano and some of the other big name gangsters from
that era, he married a girl from kentucky and they owned that plot across the street in the 1950s so it's very difficult as imentioned. people don't like the 1920s and the prohibition . it's difficult to trace remus's steps with some of the big names but they are definitely there. remus met with all of them. he supplied capone with all the bourbon and it was as i mentioned kentucky do. remus took pride in not cutting the alcohol. what capone did with it is another story but when it was shipped out to these big-name suppliers like arnold rothstein in new york city and capone editorial in chicago it was christine bourbon and they paid top dollar and remus had trucks and cars loaded that would leave death valley and go particularly into the wealthy suburbs of cincinnati. he talked a lot about going into indian hill, going into
indianapolis, other large cities nationwide. you want me to tell you the story about how i know that the tasks and remus were definitely connected? i'll tell it quickly. it's conjecture that i thinki can back up . supposedly there was some kind of philanthropic auction in cincinnati in the mid to 1920s. remus decided that if he won this auction that he could be accepted by upper society in cincinnati so there were two people left in the auction. it came down to two people, george remus with his gorgeous femme fatale wife with balls in her hair and diamonds everywhere and charles taft. those two, it comes down to them. remus wins the auction and charles taft never forgave him and from that point on, remus was more or less persona non grata and if you
follow the trail, it's not very long thereafter that george remus is hearing from the prohibition office because somebody tipped off mabel walker will a brand and her prohibition agents. somebody tipped them off that there was this guy george remus was making a lot of money and rubbing cincinnati's nose and the fact that he was supplying the nation with this high end bourbon sothere are lots and lots of connections . i wish that you could still go back in time and interview some of these people if they would maybe after time talk about some of the things they did because the paper trail kind of runs out people would reminisce and so you start to put this detective piece back together again, this jigsaw puzzle. it's an interesting story. do we have other questions?
>> did you see the portrayal of george remus in boardwalk empire ? did you see how he was portrayed? what did you think about his portrayal? >> i'm very conflicted because i like boardwalk empire as a show but the remus portrayal was awful. they played him like he was a comedic foil for the rest of the crew. he will make too much about remus remus this, remus that. he did that because he was ashamed that he wasn't as educated as some of the people that he dealt with was always trying to elevate himself, plus he had a heavy german accent so he would say remus does this or remus said thatit became part of his legend but it wasn't part of his day-to-day language . portrayal was like remus wasa joke . also i love the actor who played him, glenn flesh but
he's my size and we know remus was a little guy so right there was a great show in total but i wish they would have shown remus as the real evil genius that he was. it was supplying those guys with their bourbon and he was as ruthless. there are many people that remus had killed or killed himself, imogene was not the only one and that's why say there are no heroes to this story. you could spin the story an interesting way to make remus semi-heroic up until thepoint that he kills imogene but he wasn't . he was a thug. he just wasn't a career criminal. he came to criminality in different paths whereas our capone was bred to be a criminal and others from the earliest age by 10 or 12 these guys are committing criminal acts with lucky luciano, remus took a different tack a lot of people are interested in that boardwalk empire and it completely is off-base. the only thing i got right
was he was from cincinnati. >> what is the timeframe when imogene, was in the mid-20s -mark what did he do afterwards? >> great question, the other big thing people want to know. he shoots her on october first 1927 and he is then not free from the criminally insane hospital until mid june 1928 so remus is basically incarcerated early october 27 through mid-1928. the newspapers when george remus dies claimed that he was broke and that he was living kind of in a flophouse in covington. none of that is true. he was living in covington and you can still go see those houses. one is 1808 greenup, the
other is 1810 greenup. remus was in 1808 and the brick house . he and his third wife latch owned horses. and they traveled around the country raising horses this was an era if you own horses and she won, her horses one major raises, not kentucky derbybut the second-tier down . they had a lot of money because george had funnel all this money through last for years. so they had a lot of money. george tried to get back into bootlegging, but what happened is that while he was in jail, the entire criminality of the gangster world he came even more violence for remus's perspective. people like capone hired more violent thugs and it became a kidnapping became a major thing in the united states. there was amurder rate went through the roof . so remus did not have the
funds because of all the money that imogene and franklin embezzled from him and stole from him. he didn't have the money to really build another army and that's what it wouldhave taken to regain all of the territory . so he lives a much more quiet life, but still on the edges of criminality throughout the 30s. in the 1940s, he gets involved with this pill company and the ftc goes after them for selling vaudevillian kind of pills that didn't solve any problems. he gets in trouble during world war ii for setting up a fake company and taking government funds for the war effort. he dies in the early 1950s but the reason newspapers thought that he was destitute was because he had what people they a stroke or a heart attack, i think it was probably a stroke area and he was bedridden for six or eight months in the hospital, and goes home and is essentially written from that time on.
he had to have a nurse but blanche owed those two houses, her family had lived in those two houses and she had relatives that lived there for more than a decade previously latest work that nice of houses compared to a gas bs mansion out in price hill remus was never poor. never pour from 13 on. he found ways to make money. that's a great question. >> we probably have time for one more question. >> i've given 60 thoughts on remus and the one question that always comes up at the end that i can't answer and i don't think there's an answer to it is where did all the money go ? it's impossible to track it down . >> that is the greatest question and one that haunted me throughout the book because for somebody to have
these tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of millions of dollars , where did it all go west and mark part of remus's money went to bribery and he bribed everybody from cincinnati the cops who were on horseback through the attorney general's office, harry m doherty who is another ohio guy. he had his tentacles in a bribery system that went the whole way to the white house so all of his money went into bribery. what i think happens is that the money that was left over was either eventually found its way into the mob because the mom had solidified and started knocking off remus's men and taking over those territories so remus's men who were able to get a little bit of a territory, the mafia eventually came in and either
threatened them with murder or murdered them and took over those areas and that i think when the great depression hit, a lot of the money that was hidden away in safety deposit boxes i think disappeared , just like the trial evidence and so many other things from the 1920s, disappeared. some of it is probably out there if you can find a bank that traces back 100 years. i would that every dollar i have that there's a security deposit box at a bank somewhere in the united states that has george remus is orimaging remus is but she would have used an alias, their signature on it . so that's a great question. i even call the lastsection of the book the lost millions because it wants me to this day . >> that concludes our talk for the day. thank you all. [applause] >> as a reminder, blue
manatee literacy project will be outside under the tent with books available for purchase, thanks for coming. >>. [inaudible] >> every year book tv covers a number of book fairs and festivals around the country and here'sa look at some of the events coming up . on november 20 the 70th annual national book award will be presented in new york city and we will be live from the miami book fair with two days of all talks call-in programs later in the month and are 2020 festival season kicks off with the rancho mirage writers hospital in california followed by the savanna book festival in georgia. and for more information on upcoming book fairs and festivals and watch our previous testable coverage click the book fairs have on our website, book tv.org. >> it's temporary.