Georgetown Bootlegger Honored By Ken Burns

The other night, during part II of Ken Burns fantastic documentary on Prohibition, the camera turns to M St. and the story of Paul Ward, a bootlegger.

The clip shows a photo of the Thomas Sims Lee corner at 30th and M. But that’s not necessarily where the activity took place, since the basement of those buildings doesn’t go out to the alley. There are, however, a bunch of buildings down on the west end of M St., including Cady’s Alley, where that is the case. Either way, what a great story.

The series itself was absolutely fantastic, with photography and film from the period as captivating as we’ve come to expect from Burns’ work. If you missed it, watch the whole thing right here.

Here’s another clip of Donald Ward telling an even better story from his dad, which kicked off the episode:

GM really, really wishes he knew Donald Ward, he seems like he’s got a lot of great stories.

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3 Comments

Filed under History

3 responses to “Georgetown Bootlegger Honored By Ken Burns

  1. I spotted the same thing when I watched it and thought, “There’s no alley back there…” but loved the story anyway. I did a blog post about the film today, it was really perfect. Gave you just enough to get you interested but also left you wanting to learn more, which is really the best kind of documentary film making.

  2. I just got around to watching the Ken Burns documentary “Prohibition”. I’m pretty sure that Donald Ward is my uncle and Paul Ward was my grandfather. I know my mother’s family (The Wards) lived on M Street in Georgetown and I’d heard that my grandfather had done some bootlegging. My mother was Margaret, Donald’s sister.

  3. Whelden Merritt

    My grandfather used to scold about his grandfather because his grandfather had to spend the duration of the Civil War in prison for selling the U.S. Cavalry boots with cardboard soles. When he got out of prison he “got religion” and became a prison warden. His wife also “got religion” and thought she could cure all the misguided souls in the cold, dank prison if she worked with them and prayed with them … she died of an illness that she contracted in the prison. Ken Burns supposedly relates the story in one of his films as a famous example of war profiteering. My great, great grandfather’s excuse at court was that the Cavalry didn’t NEED leather soles on their boots.

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