Skip to main content

Tennessee is a state that is well-known for some of its alcohol like whiskey or craft beer. Back prior to the days of prohibition, in this area, whiskey was a local gem that everyone enjoyed. Then the government put a ban on alcohol, also known as prohibition, and people were upset. However, these people did not remain upset for long because they figured out how to get their own alcohol.

Since their new alcohol was illegally manufactured it contained Jamaican ginger extract, or “Jake”. Jake was previously used as a medical tonic in the army but after prohibition began, people quickly realized Jake contained nearly 70% alcohol and was a way to skirt local and federal laws.

Compared to whiskey, Jake was cheaper and had a higher alcohol content. Jake began selling around 1920-1930, the high time of prohibition. During the original sale of Jake, there were no health problems. But, in the spring of 1930, the manufacturers of jake decided to add a new ingredient.

Tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate, an industrial chemical, was added to help water Jake down. However, this chemical is extremely toxic to humans. It affects the spinal cord and could cripple people with partial paralysis, especially to the legs.

The effect of the partial paralysis caused people to have more trouble walking and drag one leg behind them. This became known as the Jake walk and Jake leg.
So the moral of the story is be thankful for legal alcohol and all the wonderful, local craft breweries we have in Johnson City.

For more on Prohibition and it leading to Jake Leg, check out: