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Drunken Ducks: 1925

Drunken Ducks: 1925

Sept. 5, 1925. "Intoxicated ducks at 611 Yon.[?] Street." This one's a mystery to me. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Fermented fruit

Amarula, a cream cordial from South Africa, has a label with elephants and the marula fruit. Elephants and other animals enjoy getting tipsy from eating the fermented marula.

Tipsy Fauna

"Crazier than a peach orchard boar." My dad, born in in Oregon in 1909, often used this old-timey expression to describe obnoxious persons of either gender who could not hold their liquor, the inspiration being the wild pigs from the woods that would raid the orchards to feast on the fermented fruit under the trees. Since we owned a businessman's-lunch restaurant and bar in the hard-drinking 1950s, even our waitresses picked it up from him and started using it back in the kitchen where the customers couldn't hear them.

Ducks are Notorious Pikers

Never heard anyone say, "Drunk as a Duck."
But Skunks are another matter.

Eye Street Hypothesis

While respectfully not negating GlenJay's "You [U] street" hypothesis, I will throw this additional information into the mix. The following account of a moonshine raid is the nearest match I can find in the Post archives. The address of this incident, 607 I street, is curiously close in number to the photograph: #607 is two doors down from #611 and events in a rear alley could easily overlap the addresses. Additionally, I street is often spelled "EYE street," potentially being transcribed as "Yon."

There remains, however, a date discrepancy of several days. Numerous explanations are possible:

  1. Simple transcription error.
  2. The National Photo photographer was tardy arriving at the scene and discovered the ducks on the 6th day of their bender.
  3. The date corresponds to the day the plate was developed.

Also unknown to me is how often bootlegger raids occurred in D.C. at this time. Would every one be reported in the newspaper or only those with additional juicy details such as the offender ramming a police car?

Raid On I Street Nets 70 Gallons

Arrest Made; Burlingame Nabs Driver
Ramming His Pursuing Car.

Capt. Guy E. Burlingame and his "flying squadron" swooped down on the premises at 607 I street northwest yesterday, where they found more than 70 gallons of alleged "white whisky," 13 bags of mash and a complete outfit for making liquor.

Anthony Consoli, 21 years old, who gave the above address, was taken to the Sixth precinct and charged with manufacturing and possession of liquor.

Burlingame and several of his men escaped injury, except for a shaking up, when an automobile they were pursuing in an alley between Fourth and Fifth, near N street northwest, yesterday rammed the police car.

John Carter, colored, of 93 L street northwest, driver of the car, was charged with transporting and illegal possession of twelve gallons of corn whisky.

Washington Post, Sep 1, 1925

Guzzling it (eider)down

One of the funniest things I ever saw was a PBS documentary years ago of animals in Africa who couldn't get enough of fermented fruit available at a certain season: all of them - elephants, antelope, birds of all kinds, zebras, giraffes, you name it, were all staggering drunk.

You Who?

I'd guess that the address is U (You) Street in DC, on a block that has seen a good many more raids since 1925. (The 600 block of U is the western end of that fabled Washington street, and was near the old Griffith Stadium featured in several Shorpy photos.)

[Brilliant! That must be it. - Dave]


Yon. short for Yonkers, maybe? There is a Yonkers Avenue.

[This is in or near Washington, D.C. "611 Yon" might be an erroneous transcription of "Kenyon." There was also a raid around this time at 607 I ("Eye") Street. - Dave]

Beer Baron

"Where'd ya cop the hooch, rummy? Is some blind tiger jerking suds on the side?"

"Um, yes?"

Birds are often drunk

We had several fruit trees at one time, pears, apples, peaches and cherries, and when the fruit would fall on the ground and ferment in the hottest months of summer, some of the birds went nearly berserk to get ahold of the intoxicating sour mash on the ground. They could not even walk straight after indulging excessively and would even become lethargic (squirrels also). As kids, we found it quite amusing.

A Theory

Either these two flappers were observed leaving their favorite quackeasy, or they were drinking from a puddle of hooch.

Prohibition Violators

Looks like the cops busted up a speakeasy or a covert still the night before. The broken barrel is a good clue, and the ducks are drinking from the pool of whatever was in the barrel. And 1925 was in the middle of Prohibition.

My grandfather tells tales about ducks and geese just gobbling up half-rotten berries and getting intoxicated off them back in Yugoslavia.

Mystery Solved?

It appears to be a scene of the aftermath from a prohibition-era raid. Note the remains of the barrel (hoops and staves) behind and to the right of the ducks. The one duck looks like it's getting a sip of the hooch that came from the busted barrel.

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