Millionaire Turned Murderer George Remus Was Inspiration for The Great Gatsby

The Prohibition Era is a time like no other in American history. Prohibition officially went into effect in 1920, and within a year there was a massive rise in bootleggers. As the definition states, bootleggers were in the illegal business of making and selling alcohol. One of the thousands of bootleggers who made their mark in American history was no other than a United States lawyer known as George Remus. However, Remus would make history for more than just bootlegging throughout his tale.

An immigrant at an early age, Remus had more struggles in his early life than most people today. However, like most of us, he was looking for many of the same things. He wanted financial security, a successful career, and a family. Fortunately, for Remus, these things did come true. Not only did Remus become a pharmacist, store owner, and lawyer but he also became a well-known bootlegger in the Prohibition Era. In fact, Remus became so well known that he was and still is known as the “King of the Bootleggers.” During his life, Remus thought he was better than m and was known to refer to himself in the third person. Publicly, Remus became so famous that many people believe he is the inspiration behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s character Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

George Remus mugshot. Denofgeek.

Early Life: Family Background

George Remus was born in Germany on November 13, 1876, to Frank and Maria. Remus had one brother, Herman, and a sister named Frances. The family lived in Germany until Remus was around four years old, which is when they immigrated to the United States of America. The family moved around for a period of time before they settled in Chicago, Illinois. It was in Chicago where Remus excelled in his academics. Unfortunately, due to his father becoming disabled because of a disease, teenage Remus had no choice but to quit school and find employment.

Of course, just like the ambition Remus showed in school, he showed in his jobs. Remus did not settle for a job as a laborer; instead, he went to work in his uncle’s drug store and started dreaming about moving up the ranks. Therefore, Remus enrolled himself at the Chicago College of Pharmacy, where he excelled in his studies. At 21 years old, Remus bought the drug store from his uncle and continued to expand his business adventures by purchasing another drug store within a few years.

George Remus. Bettmann/CORBIS/DailyMail.

Even though Remus excelled in the drug store business, he always felt a bit forced into it and had acquired other professional tastes. Accordingly, he enrolled himself in law school. In 1904, Remus was admitted into the Illinois Bar, where he specialized in criminal defense with a murder focus. Like his academics as a child and in the drug store business, Remus excelled as a lawyer, and he quickly became a favorite attorney. By the beginning of Prohibition, Remus was making about $50,000 a year, which would be a salary of about $600,000 today.