Contraband: Smuggling and the Birth of the American Century

Contraband: Smuggling and the Birth of the American Century

by Andrew Wender Cohen


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How skirting the law once defined America’s relation to the world.

In the frigid winter of 1875, Charles L. Lawrence made international headlines when he was arrested for smuggling silk worth $60 million into the United States. An intimate of Boss Tweed, gloriously dubbed “The Prince of Smugglers,” and the head of a network spanning four continents and lasting half a decade, Lawrence scandalized a nation whose founders themselves had once dabbled in contraband.

Since the Revolution itself, smuggling had tested the patriotism of the American people. Distrusting foreign goods, Congress instituted high tariffs on most imports. Protecting the nation was the custom house, which waged a “war on smuggling,” inspecting every traveler for illicitly imported silk, opium, tobacco, sugar, diamonds, and art. The Civil War’s blockade of the Confederacy heightened the obsession with contraband, but smuggling entered its prime during the Gilded Age, when characters like assassin Louis Bieral, economist “The Parsee Merchant,” Congressman Ben Butler, and actress Rose Eytinge tempted consumers with illicit foreign luxuries. Only as the United States became a global power with World War I did smuggling lose its scurvy romance.

Meticulously researched, Contraband explores the history of smuggling to illuminate the broader history of the United States, its power, its politics, and its culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393065336
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 08/24/2015
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Andrew Wender Cohen is associate professor of history at Syracuse University. He lives with his family in central New York.

Table of Contents

1 The Prince 11

2 Republic 19

3 Lazarus 41

4 Slaves


6 Expatriate 93

7 The Parsee 100

8 Leviathan 122

9 Deceivers 150

10 Gilding 173

11 Silk 192

12 Flight 213

13 Pride 243

14 Luxury 269

15 Expansion 291

16 Transformation 311

Acknowldgments 325

Notes 327

Index 377

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