The Power Brokers Gallery

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Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the late 1800’s was a small town with a big attraction: hot thermal water. Public pools and free bathing attracted a lot of visitors. The federal government took possession of the downtown area springs, and bathhouse row was born along with the first property that would be considered a National Park. At that time it was called a “reservation". Following not too far behind were great entrepreneurs who brought in gambling to go along with the area’s top leading industry, moonshining. By the time the 20th century rolled in, Hot Springs was booming with tourists. The hot thermal waters were considered a cure for almost anything, and doctors around the country would prescribe a two week regimen of spa treatment as a remedy for many ailments. In the 30’s, over a million baths a year were given. Hot Springs became America’s first resort. The community would struggle with every incoming mayoral regime going wet with gambling and dry with no gambling, according to each election cycle, that is, until Leo Patrick McLaughlin was elected mayor; and for the next 20 years, he and judge Verne Ledgerwood would get things very, very “organized". The Power Brokers gallery is an expose of one of the first political machines in America that laid the foundation for Hot Springs becoming the largest illegal gambling operation in the country.


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