The Jake Walk: Interesting Name on Smith Street
This is the Smith Street bar that used to be called Quench. It is coming back to life as "The Jake Walk," from the owners of Stinky and Smith & Vine. Its transition was noted yesterday by Brownstoner along with the coming Clover Club next to Rocket Ship. Our Carroll Gardens Correspondent came upon the sign and sent along these photos, writing:
The people who own the cheese shop with the unfortunate name of Stinky and the wine store with the equally silly name of Smith & Vine have taken over the the painted blue brick corner bar, Quench. Three's a charm with names. The Jake Walk has been painted pale yellow and windows have been punched out of the side and a wood paneled door installed. An improvement over the slinky meat market style of Quench.As it turns out, "The Jake Walk" is a name with a rather macabre history, referring to people who were poisoned by bootleg alcohol and left with physical disabilities. Jake was a Jamaican ginger extract with high alcohol content that was used to skirt laws banning alcohol. In 1930, manufacturers decided to add an industrial chemical to dilute Jake that turned out to be highly toxic. Victims were partly paralyzed and the resulting walk was known as "the Jake Walk." Here's a bit we found online about it, although we had no idea when we went looking:
Jake is actually Jamacian ginger extract, marketed and sold as a medicinal tonic for any number of ills. It was available in the United States since about the time of the Civil War, and Americans quickly realized that the nearly 70% alcohol content made "the jake" a way to skirt local or federal laws banning the consumption of liquor...Jake sold between 1920 and 1930 caused no health problems. In the spring of 1930, however, the manufacturers of jake decided to add a new ingredient, an industrial chemical called tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate.There are many songs about the Jake Walk Blues. So, that's the story behind the name on Smith Street. Cheery.
The new ingredient was added to help adulter, or water down, the jake. It was tasteless, soluble with alcohol, and cheap. It also turned out to be highly toxic, particularly to the spinal cord...It is estimated that some 50,000 people were crippled with partial paralysis, mostly in their legs, as a result of drinking "jake". In some cases the paralysis proved to be temporary, but nearly all victims were forced to walk with in high-stepping, foot-slapping style that quickly became known as the "jake walk" or the "jake leg"