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Bar-Hopping With Hirschfeld

In 1932, Caricaturist Al Hirschfeld And Writer Gordon Kahn turned their extensive nocturnal research into the ultimate boozy baedeker.


Prohibition was in its last gasp; the Depression still gripped the nation, and New Yorkers found ever more creative ways to tipple, in hideaways from Harlem to Greenwich Village. “Many law-abiding people now thought it was their patriotic duty to drink,” Pete Hamill writes in his introduction to The Speakeasies of 1932. “The speakeasy was a forging ground, a place where issues of class and race could be submerged in the name of a larger goal: the simple good time.” Hirschfeld, who died in January, would go on to immortalize Broadway stars in the Times. Kahn, who died in 1962, was a prolific screenwriter until his refusal to name names landed him on the Hollywood blacklist. Before all that, however, these lifelong friends deftly captured the Manhattan demimonde with a gimlet eye and a Runyon ear.

Next: Read an excerpt from The Speakeasies of 1932


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