Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Robert A. Edson - Federal Prohibition Agent

Ellen Sophia Bills and Robert Edson - circa 1897
Used by permission of Chirstina Kraus


  Robert Adams Edson, was born in West Brookfield, on January 21, 1894.  His parents were Charles O'Meara Edson and Cora Richards.  Robert was a chemist by trade, and at the time of the 1920 census, was living in Hackensack, New Jersey. has a  record collection entitled, U. S., Identification Card Files of Prohibition Agents, 1920-1925.    I entered the search term, "West Brookfield, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA," in the locations box, and found a copy of the Photo ID for Robert A. Edson.   The ID dated Mar. 9 '21 bears the number 7799 in red, and says, "The United States Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service.  This Certifies that Robert A. Edson of W. Brookfield, Mass. is a duly employed as a Federal Prohibition Agent and is hereby authorized to execute and perform all the duties delegated to such officers by law."  It is signed by John F. Kramer Federal Prohibition Commissioner and Wm. M. Williams, Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
    Prohibition Agents were responsible for eliminating the sale and consumption of alcohol by closing speakeasies, destroying stills, and apprehending bootleggers and gangsters.  Jeffrey H. Fiske, mentions two prohibition raids in town, on page 151 of A History of West Brookfield: 1675-1990. The "Uwanta Lunch" was raided by unnamed prohibition officers in October of 1923.  Twelve bottles of whiskey and brandy were seized. The "Happy Rest Eat Shoppe" owned by Sheick Masoonaian was fined $150 for selling liquor in September of 1927.  The location of both establishments was on Route 9; and in fact, may have been identical
   I do not know how long Robert worked as a prohibition agent.  He was living in the Brighton section of Boston by 1930, and working as a chemist in a glue factory.  He married Elizabeth Gunther sometime between 1930 and 1940.  The couple lived together in Boston until June of 1954 when Robert jumped from the Harvard Bridge into the Charles River and drowned.