The Whiskey Ring


The Whiskey Ring was a political scandal in 1875. The scheme started with distilleries bribing government officials, and these officials helped distillers to avoid federal taxes. After the Civil War whiskey tax increased to 70 cents a gallon. The Whiskey Ring began operations in St. Louis in 1871, distilleries paid the Whiskey Ring only 35 cents a gallon and so millions of dollars of federal taxes could be skimmed. Later, the Whiskey Ring included the cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Peoria. The United States Taxpayers’ money was diverted in a extensive conspiracy web of bribes involving distillers, government officials, rectifiers, auditors, storekeepers and internal finance officials. Due to its ties to the government, the Whiskey Ring was considered impregnable.

US Treasury Secretary Benjamin Bristow used secret agents from outside the Treasury Department to conduct a series of raids across the country and dissolved the close-knit and politically powerful Whiskey Ring. The Trials began in October 1875 and resulted in 110 convictions and recovered over $3 million in taxpayers’ money. President Ulysses S. Grant was not directly involved in the Whiskey Ring but this scandal of Republican corruption is remembered with his presidency.