Boulder City Magazine is a monthly publication full of information about Boulder City and Southern Nevada. Boulder City Magazine features the Boulder City Home Guide, a real estate guide to Boulder City and Southern Nevada.

Boulder City History
by Laura Hutton, Museum Coordinator
Boulder City Hoover Dam Museum

Repealing Prohibition

On December 5, 1933, eight months after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act repealing prohibition, the national ban of alcohol was lifted. However, individual states had their own laws to control the use of alcohol, and some kept those prohibitive laws until the mid-1960s!

Boulder City, or the Boulder Canyon Project as it was then, was not incorporated until 1960, giving the federal government supreme law of the land. And, the federal marshals, along with City Manager Sims Ely, weren’t interested in having any riffraff in their town.

Efforts to keep Boulder City “dry” began with a public announcement stating the federal reservation’s stance on alcohol and a failed bootlegging raid on March 24, 1931. The raid turned out to be a bust. Someone had tipped-off the bootleggers, and the prohibition agents were met at the empty prospector’s cabin near the dam site by twenty cases of flat beer.

Several more attempts were made to crush the alcohol consumption and production in and around the reservation, such as the raids of April and May of 1931, conducted by unofficial mayor of the Ragtown settlement, Marshal Claude Williams. Marshal Williams spent countless hours meticulously documenting and mapping the activities of suspicious characters moving about the canyons and gathering intelligence from informants around town as to where bootleggers and their stills might be hiding. It’s even been said that when the cabinetry from the first Boulder City police station was used in a private home, one of the maps instructing officers how to reach known bootlegging areas was found taped up inside.

The arrival of Colonel George Seavers of San Francisco and 50 “dry officers” on May 18, 1931 yielded 25 speakeasies, 5 breweries, and 3 stills from the area known as “Midway” (where Boulder Highway connected Las Vegas and Boulder City). Sims Ely may have threatened to kick construction workers and their families off the reservation if they were caught with alcohol, but most were not dismayed. It took decades, but in 1969, prohibition in Boulder City was finally lifted.

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