Historical Highlights

The Infamous House Bootlegger Known as the “Man in the Green Hat”

October 24, 1930
The Infamous House Bootlegger Known as the “Man in the Green Hat” Image courtesy of Library of Congress A World War I veteran, George Cassiday became legendary for his bootlegging activities in the House and Senate Office Buildings during the Prohibition Era.
On this date, the Washington Post published the first installment of an expose by the “Man in the Green Hat," a bootlegger who sold alcohol to Representatives from rooms in the House and Senate office buildings during the 1920s. As an underemployed World War I veteran, George Cassiday turned to the illegal alcohol trade during the Prohibition Era. From 1920 to 1925, he sold spirits to House Members in the House Office Building (now Cannon). Cassiday recalled that Representatives were customers “nearly every day Congress was in session and [I] had no serious trouble.” Business became so brisk that he found himself “hustling from the time the offices opened at 9 o’clock in the morning until well along in the evening.” From a New York supplier, Cassiday routinely transported “35 to 40 quarts in two large suit cases” by train. A Member, he claimed, secured basement office space for him that suited his illicit trade. The room, Cassiday explained, “opened on the court and when the blinds were pulled and the door opening…was bolted there was no chance of being interrupted at work.” It took the Capitol Police five years to uncover Cassiday’s operation. When they arrested him with alcohol in a briefcase, he was wearing “a light green felt hat.” When the House Sergeant at Arms described the perpetrator’s attire for reporters, the incident and Cassiday's new moniker made national headlines. Cassiday pled guilty to possession of alcohol and was banned from House premises. His newfound publicity, however, did not hurt his business. As many who have left the House in one capacity or another have done, Cassiday simply found employment on the north side of the Capitol building. From 1925 to 1930, he ran a bootlegging operation out of the Senate Office Building (now Russell). The experience gave him a unique perspective on the two institutions. In the House, he told the Washington Post, “I dealt directly with most of my customers,” but “most of the senators would order their liquor through their secretaries.” Cassiday added, “You find a more general spirit of good fellowship and conviviality in the House.”

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The Cannon House Office Building, completed in 1908 and later named for Speaker Joseph Cannon of Illinois, is the oldest congressional office building. The creation of offices for Members of Congress forever changed how the House of Representatives worked.

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