Harry Low

Entrepreneur, Rum Runner, Bootlegger.

Harry Low was Windsor’s biggest Rumrunner, Bootlegger, blind pig owner and whisky exporter during Prohibition in the United States and Ontario. He made a fortune during the time, but then lost it all through bad investments and trouble with the law. However, the home he built in Walkerville, Devonshire Lodge, stands as a testament to his ingenuity and grandiosity, and remains a landmark in the city.

Harry Low was born in Ottawa on March 17, 1888, the first child of an average working class family. His father owned a machine shop, and Harry was trained and apprenticed in the tool and die trade. It didn’t take long for Harry to become an entrepreneur; he opened a public hall that showed silent moving pictures and hosted events, and bought and sold horses for large profits. Harry soon left factory life behind and focused exclusively on wheeling and dealing. In 1919, Harry packed up his life in Ottawa and moved to Sandwich, an area of western Windsor; he came to seek opportunities for entrepreneurship in the border city during the boom of the automotive business. This move was providential as it provided easy access to the American border that would become necessary for his exporting business during the 1920s to be hugely successful.

Harry Low started his business operation in Windsor as a pool hall owner.  He started out doing small exports, and soon became part owner of Carling Brewing Company and Bermuda Export Company. They did a brisk business using speedboats off of the riverfront docks, but Harry sought more and bought 2 decommissioned ships to export even more beverages. It did not take long for the police and other agencies to take an interest in the legal and not-so-legal aspects of the business and Harry Low would spend a large portion of the rest of his life in and out of jail and in trouble with the law (or dodging the law). By 1934 the business had dried up and Harry moved to the States; he would move in and out of the country dodging the IRS and law enforcement until finally moving back to Windsor in 1949. He died at Hotel Dieu Hospital in 1955.

Sources:

http://www.walkervilletimes.com/33/harry-low.html

Gervais, M. (2009). The Rumrunners: a prohibition scrapbook. (2 ed., pp. 94-101) Emeryville, Ontario, Canada: Biblioasis.

May, G. (2015). Two Men and Their Monster. (1 ed., pp. 23-39) Windsor, Ontario, Canada: Your Story Publishing.