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Dr. Buzzkill: 1925

Dr. Buzzkill: 1925

September 5, 1925. Washington, D.C. "W.A. Green, Chief Prohibition Inspector." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Walton Atwater Green

This is indeed Maj. Walton Atwater Green, an Army officer in WWI who subsequently had several interesting careers -- publisher of the Boston Journal, a novelist, and for a time Chief Prohibition Inspector. He was also my grandfather, though we never met. Nice to see his face here.

Tough audience here

I wonder how many of them would survive being exhibited in 85 years time in today's environment and fashions. I certainly know my family has some pictures of me from the 1970s tucked away which would result in instant retribution if they were publicly shown.

The Double Stink-Eye!

Snidely Whiplash believed he had gotten away with his little ruse with a simple mustache trim. Not for long.

I Wonder

If the good Doctor could be a distant relative of Tom Selleck; or the inspiration for that mustache (but with a smile!) He does look like the perfect man for the perfect job!

Hey Lucy!

We've found the Anti-Gale Gordon!

Marty Feldman Eyes

Could they both be glass? "Hey Wally, you've got some snew there on your right shoulder." "What's snew?" "Not too much Wally, what's snew with you?"

Major Green

This is Maj. Walton Atwater Green, former Army officer who seems to have had some role in the formation of the military police in France during World War I. You can find quite a few references to him in the news and society pages of the mid-20s and 1930s.

Eh, he ain't so bad

just the way his face is put together, everybody has to make a living.

Great title, Dave, you've set the bar high for Twenty Ten.

This guy

beats out the Franciscan brothers from eighth grade as scaring me the most!

A little off the top, Andy?

Floyd the Barber.

"Seen the papers today, Williams?"

I wonder whether Mr. Green had been reading articles in the nation's papers the day before the photo was taken, regarding an extraordinary case. These three extracts are lengthy, but worth reading because of the story itself, and for the editorial comment on prohibition laws.

* * *


Dry Officer Is Rebuked For Securing Evidence in Such a Manner

Washington, Sept. 4. - Should dry agents woo and win the love of pretty daughters to get evidence against their mothers?

Lincoln C. Andrews, prohibition generalissimo, today puckered his brow over that perplexing problem. He gave no information of his decision.

The question grew out of the case of John T. Williams, married rum sleuth, who won the love of Miss Sally Canada, 19, daughter of the postmistress at Glen Echo, Md., then arrested her and raided her mother's store.

U. S. Commissioner Supplee in Baltimore yesterday dismissed the case against Miss Canada with a withering denunciation of Williams and his methods of enforcing prohibition.

Harry M. Luckett, chief of Washington dry agents, came to the defense of Williams today, but did not defend his novel scheme for securing evidence. He denied that he told Williams to get evidence "at any cost."

Prohibition Commissioner Haynes declined to make any verbal comment on the case, but his gestures were eloquent. Asked if he were interested in love-making methods to get evidence, Haynes threw up his arms and walked away.

"It was the dirtiest trick a man ever played on a girl," was the comment of Sally Canada.

The pretty girl then described how Williams dropped into the little store and finally succeeded in making a date. He was a fast worked and gave Sally such a good time that she fell in love with him.

One night, Williams asked her to buy some liquor for him and took her to a place near her home, she said. Williams drank most of the liquor on the spot, she added. Later, she added, he asked her to get more liquor which she did and hid it in her ward.

Williams called for the liquor with his wife and when it was delivered arrested the girl and raided her store.

In flaying Williams, Commissioner Supplee said it cost $500 to get a $3 pint of liquor.

* * *


A story of real life down in Baltimore is worth telling in tabloid form. Told with the usual circumstantiality in a 1925 novel, it would bld mark the utmost extreme of fantasticality. Flashed on the cinema screen it would be called the grotesque hallucination of some poor scenario writer. But it is a true story none the less, and the essential part of it appears in the records of a United States Commissioner's office.

Our readers can draw from the narrative what moral they please. At any rate, it is worth repeated as—well, as a modern instance.

Down in a Maryland town bearing the romantic name of Glen Echo lives a nineteen-year-old girl and a High School graduate, one Sally Canada, with ehr mother, who keeps a country store and the post office. For some reason not fully disclosed, Mrs. Canada's little store incurred the suspicions of the Prohibition agent in the district. He accordingly summoned an official trysty on his staff whose name is John T. Williams. It is Williams who figures as the hero of the story, for want of a better one - a melancholy want in this romance. The regional Prohibition chief, as it appears from the records, ordered Williams "to go the limit on making a case against the Canadas," mother and daughter. How well Williams obeyed this injunction will appear below, though we may anticipate by saying that he must have had in mind this passage from the "Merchant of Venice": "The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard, but I will better the instruction." We shall see that even the "limit" may be paradoxically exceeded.

To make a long story short, let it be stated at once that Williams, after introducing himself as an acquaintance of a friend of the Canada family, began courting the girl, motoring with her to various summer resorts and entertaining her in the customary ways. We continue this narrative by slicing the following extract from the special Baltimore despatch:

"I told her I loved her and asked her to marry me," testified Williams, who said the courtship lasted from June 28 to July 28.

The girl, he said, on the night of July 27, sold him a pint of liquor for $3. It was then that he made the complaint and caused the postoffice to be raided.

After hearing the stories of Williams, Miss Canada, and her mother, Commissioner Supplee declared:

"This girl was taken on automobile trips and taken to dinner and parties. Williams made love to her and won his way into her confidence. I consider this a plain case of trapping. If the Volstead act depends on such methods as this for enforcement, I think it is a pity that we have it and similar laws on the statute books.

"I do not believe Miss Canada or her mother ever sold liquor or possessed liquor. The pint used as evidence was secured by Miss Canada for Williams after he won her confidence."

The story, though not occupying very much space, is a pretty complete one as it stands. On the whole, it does not call for extended comment in any decent community, even in this new and wonderful era of Volsteadian enterprise. It seems necessary, however, after repeating the main details, to substitute for Williams, as the hero of the story, that United States Commissioner with the unromantic name of Supplee. More power to his strong elbow and his honorable manhood!

This example of rascality and treachery in the name of law enforcement is exceptional only in the almost unbelievable measure of its turpitude. Less shameful methods of the same general stamp are employed every day. The effect of the new dispensation is to put a sort of official premium upon practices which every right-minded man and woman detested before the Eighteenth Amendment was adopted. One can imagine nothing more contemptible than officers of the law who, not content with snooping and spying, glory in their successful stratagems to tempt people to violate the law. We do not believe that the decent public opinion of the United States, which is still presumably predominant, will permanently endure that particular kind of official knavery.

* * *

... "It was the dirtiest trick a man ever played on a girl," she said.

And it is. And Williams should be forced to pay some sort of a penalty for that trick, and if it was a man "higher up" in the dry force, he, too, should pay. A girl's love should not be tampered with. The trouble with divorce courts today lies in the fact that love is being taken entirely too lightly, not always by the man, of course, because both are to blame in many cases. But for the mere matter of adding a few hundred dollars to the United States treasury, no man should be permitted to mask a misdemeanor of the sort committed by this dry agent under the cloak of his official duties.

In the first place, the daughter was not committing the crime. It was her mother. Yet she was the subject of an unjust farce, the unhappy medium of an unscrupulous man's deception and trickery. Possibly her entire life has been blighted for the sake of procuring a little bootleg liquor. Is that justice?

The sooner all justice is carried out for the sake of justice, the better the citizens of this nation will come to regard the countless number of statutes which have been enacted. But it should always be remembered, that the happiness and rights of every man and every woman and every child should not be tampered with or distorted in order to gain some petty objective.

Those eyes

... burning ... my ... soul! (slump)

Serious, yes

But the bowtie says "party!"

Emulsion gremlins telling us the truth

I think some smart mold spores tagged this plate.

The first few dots across the desk spell in Morse:


I confess! I confess! Just stop staring at me!

He can smash an entire roomful of bootleg hootch WITH HIS MIND.

Bling Bling!

Call me a cynic, but that watch looks very gold, very thin, very stylish and very expensive to be on the wrist of a humble public servant in 1925.

What? What did I do?

As I looked at this photo, I had an immediate and overwhelming sense of guilt - like I must have done something very wrong, and Mr. Green knows about it.

Looks like he's got a bear of a hangover

Hand so unsteady he got ink all over his paper.

Previous job

Auditor for the I.R.S.

The male Medusa

A formidable gaze, to be sure. Who knows? He might have been a real sweetheart, but I'm not sure I would get close enough to find out.

Shoveling against the tide

Nothing like trying to put a Genie back in the bottle! 8 more years of trying...

Mr. Niceguy

Unasked-for advice: Lighten up.

Inspector Hard Stare

One would probably need a couple of drinks after being inspected by this guy.

Best Kicker EVER!

This kicker "Dr. Buzzkill" is one of the funniest things I have EVER read! Thanks for the laugh. Also, does anyone else think actor Hugh Laurie ('House') is *made* for this role?

Mean looking dude

You would have to be to take charge of that agency. The most corrupt US government department ever.

The G-Man

If looks could kill!

A toast

I hope Mr. Green will join me in saluting the XXI Amendment to the Constitution. Cheers!


Talk about a look that could kill at a thousand paces.

This man needs

... a drink.

Future father-in-law

Imagine dating this mans daughter... VERY serious, strict, about as fun as a funeral. Oh, and no liquid sunshine either.

There's a man who could use a good stiff drink!

Good thing he can get into the evidence locker!

This guy

looks like he needs a beer. Seriously. Now. Before something bad happens.

The Evils of the Demon Rum

He looks like he could use a drink!

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