Lucy the Bootlegging Elephant

Atlantic City was ground zero for Prohibition, which made the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol illegal — but not the consumption of it. So, if you could get alcohol into the country, you could drink it without violating the law. However, the law went essentially unenforced by authorities in Atlantic City, quickly making it a haven for gangsters and smugglers. The international waters just 7 miles offshore was nicknamed “Rum Runners Row,” and the smuggling could be seen from the 9th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where crime boss Nucky Johnson conducted his business. He was faced with just one problem: How to get the liquid gold into Atlantic City from Rum Runners Row without getting caught. That’s where Lucy the Elephant came in. Built in 1881 as a sales gimmick, the elephant-shaped building had served as a real estate office, a private residence, and even a bar until Prohibition closed it down. Now, Lucy helped the smugglers bring in their illicit cargo. On clear days, Lucy is visible for up to 8 miles out to sea, perfect for Rum Runners Row. Spies would go out and check to see if the Coast Guard or any other authorities were patrolling the beaches. If they were, a red light would shine out of Lucy’s eyes; if not, Lucy’s eyes would shine green. As soon as Prohibition was repealed, Lucy went back to being a bar.