A Community in Search of Itself: A Case History of Cairo, Illinois

By Herman R. Lantz | Go to book overview

5
The economy of liquor and vice

As a river community, Cairo was characterized by a good deal of crime and lawlessness from the very first. Law enforcement was minimal during the early history of the community and continued to be minimal throughout many periods.1 Crime rates in the community were consistently higher than in other sections of the state.2

Social norms were in a great state of flux and definitions of behavior were unclear. As noted in earlier chapters, confusion was present in the whole area of legal and social obligations between the community and the individual. Such confusions were manifest in matters of taxes, in enforcement of commercial agreements, and in the behavior of the public officials in whom trust had been placed. The significance of this state of affairs for the emergence of orderly group life is apparent. Insofar as ambiguity about legal and social norms was present, the existence of crime, gambling, and vice was facilitated. The fact that a clientele was present and a fiscal need existed facilitated the development of an economy based on liquor and vice.

Starting with the years just preceding the Civil War, the liquor-vice complex was the most stable and predictable source of revenue in Cairo. As such, it was perhaps less the result of what is commonly labeled social disorganization and more a matter of an economic activity with both a substantial base and local support.

This liquor-vice complex had several characteristics. A first was the inadequate police force, which appears at the outset to stem simply from public indifference; later in the

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A Community in Search of Itself: A Case History of Cairo, Illinois
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables viii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Purpose and Overview 1
  • 2 - The Early Years 7
  • 3 - River Transshipment and Railroads 20
  • 5 - The Economy of Liquor and Vice 68
  • 6 - Political Development 88
  • 7 - Failure in Process 111
  • 8 - Flooding and Seep Water 132
  • 9 - Power, Dependency, Alienation, And Resignation 146
  • 10 - The Present and the Future 170
  • Notes 181
  • Bibliography 219
  • Index 231
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