Bruce E. Stewart

in Moonshiners and Prohibitionists

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780813130002
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135670 | DOI:

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Prohibitionists in western North Carolina had to overcome the common perception among mountain residents during the nineteenth century that alcohol manufacturing was a respectable profession and that the government had no legal authority to deprive them of the opportunity to make a living by distilling liquor. When the federal liquor tax was enforced after the Civil War, mountain residents viewed moonshiners as valiant southerners protecting the community from an oppressive federal government. However, mountain reformers persisted, using grassroots initiatives such as local-option laws. Although largely unsuccessful, the local-option laws proved to highlanders that a more stringent measure such as statewide prohibition was necessary to solve the region's liquor problem. Reformers were also aided by the rapid industrialization of western North Carolina which brought improved transportation, urban growth, and increased commercial farming to the region. These ignited an economic and social revolution that helped bridge the cultural gap that had divided mountain townspeople and their rural counterparts since the antebellum period. Nevertheless, the demand for and supply of alcohol continued even after the advent of statewide prohibition in 1908 and national prohibition in 1919. Alcohol distilling soon became a well-organized criminal business, resulting in the proliferation of moonshiner violence across the US.

Keywords: western North Carolina; statewide prohibition; national prohibition; alcohol distilling; moonshining; federal liquor law; local-option laws; industrialization; cultural hierarchy

Chapter.  1700 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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