top of page

Team Junkfish Blog

Top 3 Prohibition-Era Bootleggers (According to us)

With the release of our new game Bootleg Steamer fast approaching, now seems a great time to take a little dive into some of the real life infamous Prohibition bootleggers who inspired our characters.

Three Bootleg Steamer captains with the text: Top 3 Bootleggers

William “Bill” McCoy 

William McCoy was the first bootlegger to bring a boat full of alcohol from the Caribbean and set up shop three miles off the coast of New York City. This clever strategy meant he evaded Prohibition laws by staying in International Waters and became the founder of Rum Row. Whilst many other rum runners copied this clever tactic, they never made the same impact. How you ask? Well, have you ever wondered where the phrase “The real McCoy” originated? We have good old Bill to thank for that! Where Bill’s fellow Rum Row residents would water down their alcohol with things such as prune juice or turpentine, Bill never diluted his wares. These spirits became known as “The Real McCoy” and the popular phrase was born!

Gertrude “Cleo” Lythgoe

Gertrude Lythgoe was given the nickname Cleo as an homage to the legendary Pharaoh Cleopatra. Pre-prohibition Gertrude worked for a whiskey wholesaler, and once the Volstead Act was enforced saw an opportunity to make her mark in a male dominated industry. Setting up a wholesale liquor business in the Bahamas, Gertrude soon made a name for herself as “The Queen of the Bahamas'' and even “Queen of the Bootleggers”. This reputation was cemented when Gertrude used the fleets of many other rum smugglers, including Bill McCoy, before buying her own fleet to distribute her undiluted liquor. Unlike other bootleggers at the time, Gertrude retired from the bootlegging game at the height of her infamy, living the rest of her days in luxurious hotels writing her autobiography. This of course is not too dissimiliar from the story of Bootleg Steamer’s Arthur Moore who disappeared from public life just as a wealthy widow, who looked a lot like Moore, purchased a ranch in the midwest living out her days in rich comfort.

George Remus 

If Gertrude was the “Queen of the Bootleggers”, then George Remus was definitely the king. George had many careers, from pharmacist to lawyer to bootlegger; the man was no stranger to being ahead of the curve. During the Prohibition era, Doctors were able to write prescriptions for medicinal alcohol and Remus realised that by owning wholesale drug warehouses he could legally buy and sell large amounts of alcohol, giving him the perfect cover for bootlegging. Ever the entrepreneur, Remus pioneered the defense of guilt by temporary insanity. A defense he used when acting as a defense lawyer for bootlegger clients in court, including himself!

Become part of the bootleggers legacy

This was a little glimpse into three iconic Bootleggers and the reputations they earned, but in Bootleg Steamer YOU are at the helm of a bootleg empire and the reputation you earn is up to you! Will you follow in Remus’ steps and run a stealthy operation, evading and tricking the authorities? Or will you be more like McCoy and make a statement with huge ships and even bigger profits? Or perhaps you’ll be the new “Queen of the Bahamas” and make deals with the Mafia to further your business? 

Do you have a favourite Prohibition era Bootlegger we haven’t covered? Come join our Discord and share them with us. If you haven't already, you can wishlist Bootleg Steamer on Steam.

Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page