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Jay Gatsby gets most of his wealth from his illegal business in liquor smuggling. This book is set during the Prohibition era in the United States (1919-1933). During this time, it was illegal to produce, transport, or sell alcoholic beverages. Because of this, and because people still wanted to drink, there was a huge black market for alcohol.
In real life, many bootleggers got rich off of this illegal trade. In the book, Gatsby gets rich in this same fashion. You can get confirmation of this, for example, in Chapter 7. Tom accuses Gatsby and Wolfsheim of having been bootleggers and Gatsby does not deny it.
He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t far wrong.”
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