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Baker Brothers Sell Thousands of Dollars of Fake Liquor

In 1918 Owen and Harry Baker discovered they could make money by selling fake liquor to thirsty Oregonians.  They were nicknamed the "Ninety-Nine-Percent Baker Brothers” by authorities who said their brew was 99 percent water and one percent artificial coloring.  They put it in bottles labeled "Old Crow, Aged in the Woods Eight Years," and added a little real whiskey to fool potential buyers.
The scam unraveled after they picked up a couple of Seattle women, took them to Portland, and abandoned them without money to get home.  The women became police informants, which led to the brothers’ stash and the arrest of Harry Baker on charges of white slavery.  The sale of brown water wasn’t illegal.  The Bakers reportedly sold some $15,000 worth of fake booze before their scam was revealed, so Harry easily posted bail and disappeared.

 The Baker Brothers surfaced again however, when they were arrested in 1919 as part of a bootlegging ring bringing real booze into Oregon during Prohibition from a saloon in Hilt, just south of the Oregon-California state line.


Sources: "Profiteer in Fake Whiskey Arrested." The Morning Oregonian 4 July 1918 [Portland Oregon] : 11. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Web. 30 Oct. 2015. http://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn83025138/1918-07-04/ed-1/seq-11/#date1=1846&index=10&date2=2013&words=Baker+brothers&searchType=advanced&sequence=0&lccn=&proxdistance=5&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=& ; Big Booze Ring Rounded Up by U.S. Officers." Grants Pass Daily Courier 20 Feb. 1919: 1. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Web. 30 Oct. 2015. .

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.