Santa Barbara’s history in illegal rum running

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An exhibit at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum explores how Santa Barbara’s islands and coves played a central role in the illegal rum trade during Prohibition.

Rum Runners, Sailors, and Prohibition tells the story of rum, and its connection to Santa Barbara’s sea-going men. In fact, some of the city’s major historical figures like Bill McCoy and Dr. Sansum, of Sansum Clinics, even played a part in smuggling booze. 

Santa Cruz Island was filled with secret caves and coves perfect for hiding illegal rum operations.  Photo credit: SCIF Archives
The Caprice, the Santa Barbara Yacht Club signature boat, was absconded by the US Coast Guard to chase rum runners because it was light and fast.  Photo credit: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum


SBMM Lecture: The Real McCoy: Rum Runners from Santa Barbara Maritime Museum on Vimeo.



  • Greg Gorga - Executive Director, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum


Carolina Starin