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November 29, 2014

Insured Against “Accidents” for $25,000: Here’s the Last Brewed Bottle of Beer Before Prohibition Went Into Effect, 1930

Rae Samuels holds the last bottle of beer that was distilled before Prohibition went into effect in Chicago, Dec. 29, 1930. The bottle of Schlitz was insured for $25,000.

Rae Samuels was one of vaudeville’s biggest stars for over 20 years, earning $2,500 per week. Why she posed for the photographs is a mystery. Maybe just publicity for Schlitz beer and the impending end of Prohibition. Maybe the famous last bottle was in a theatre Rae was appearing in.

According to Social Security records, Rachel “Rae” Samuels was born in Youngstown, OH in 1889, one of ten children born to immigrant Welsh and Irish parents. Other accounts say her birth year is 1887. Rae loved performing as a child and won her first amateur contest at age 13. She said her professional career started when she was in her teens, singing illustrated songs in a Chicago movie theatre.

Rae said, “No sum of money however large looms as big in the imagination as the first money we ever earn. The salary was $35 a week. Nothing I’ve earned since has given me as much of a thrill as that. I was so sure that $35 was all the money in the world that it never occurred to me to look for anything better. The fact that I had eight performances a day and ten on Sunday didn’t seem unusual or hard work. My enthusiasm was simply tremendous.”

A Chicago newspaperman who acted as an unofficial talent scout heard Rae at the theatre and was very impressed with the teen. The newspaperman brought her to the attention of the head of the local Orpheum circuit who went to see Rae and offered her a spot touring. From that point on Rae’s career was off and running touring the vaudeville circuit and working her way up to headliner with her attractive looks and strong voice.

Florenz Ziegfeld caught one of Rae’s performances on tour and in 1912 he quickly signed the burgeoning star. Rae made her New York debut at The Moulin Rouge (formerly the Music Hall at Hammersteins’s Olympia Theatre) in Ziegfeld’s A Winsome Widow on June 3, 1912. On October 21, Rae received one of the feature roles in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1912.

Rae’s manager, Marty Forkins courted her for two years before she agreed to marry him in either 1911 or 1914. They had one child, Patrick, born in 1925.



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