On October 2, 3, and 4, the new Ken Burns documentary, Prohibition, will be broadcast on PBS stations across the country. One of the segments will feature Price Hill’s own George Remus, who is considered to be an inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. And two local historical societies are busy helping to fill in the gaps for people who want to know more about this local legend, who was known as “The King of the Bootleggers.”
The production company behind Prohibition contacted both the Price Hill Historical Society and the Delhi Historical Society for information and photographs from the life of George Remus when they were creating the documentary. Delhi’s society, in particular, has a large collection of photographs of Remus that were donated to the organization and have since been used to create an extensive exhibit about Remus and Prohibition in Cincinnati. The exhibit will be on display at the Delhi Farmhouse Museum, located at 468 Anderson Ferry Road in Cincinnati, through November 15.
On Sunday, October 2, there will be an open house at the Farmhouse Museum from 12: 00 noon to 3:00 pm that will feature a book signing by two members of the Price Hill Historical Society, Joyce Meyer and Julie Hotchkiss, who are the authors of the recently published Remembering Remus in Price Hill, which covers the life and times of one of Price Hill’s most notorious residents, along with many stories about him from people who knew him or heard of him around the neighborhood.
Visitors to the Price Hill Historical Society and Museum, located at 3640 Warsaw Avenue, often ask about Remus, who made his home on Hermosa Avenue in Price Hill for less than five years. Almost a century after George Remus ran one of the most extensive bootlegging operations in the country from Cincinnati’s west side, his name still has the ability to conjure up images of a gilt-edged mansion with a sleek modern swimming pool and other Jazz Age excesses. Remus used legal loopholes in the Volstead Act to make a fortune selling whiskey during Prohibition, he was ruthless and acted swiftly to protect his own interests, but he was widely known as a generous man who never forgot a friend or a favor, and he really knew how to throw a party.
He made millions of dollars running a bootlegging operation centered at a “ranch” on Queen City Avenue that shipped whiskey all over the easten United States. His operation came to a halt when he was convicted of tax evasion and bribing officials (some sources say he spent more than a half-million dollars bribing police and government officials from local precincts right up to Warren Harding’s cabinet). When he got out of prison, he found that his wife and one of the federal agents had liquidated most of his assets, and on the day she was due in court to file for divorce, Remus followed her to Eden Park, on Cincinnati’s east side, and shot her near the gazebo that still stands there.
The story of his trial and acquittal is told in both the exhibit at the Delhi Historical Society and in the book recently published by the Price Hill Historical Society, which is available on the PHHS website. It’s a beguiling story, and one that does seem to have inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write his most well-known novel. George Remus, for a few golden years, lived Gatsby’s dream—he was the “King of the Bootleggers.”