Moonshine in the Mountains: A Social Analysis of Illicit Whiskey in Appalachia, 1865-1925

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Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Kathryn Newfont


This paper discusses how the social views of illicit whiskey distillation in Appalachia changed with the evolving liquor laws from the Civil War to Prohibition. It will also describe how moonshine played a key role in the creation of the Appalachian identity and subsequent negative cultural stereotypes during Reconstruction and onwards. The increase in liquor laws overtime created an increasingly negative sentiment towards moonshine and moonshiners. Through the utilization of newspapers, narratives, cartoons, and photographs, as well as secondary source literature on Appalachian moonshine and foundational work on Appalachian stereotype, the history of social views on moonshine in the region can be analyzed. By specifically looking at the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, these patterns of moonshine history can be properly analyzed to provide an encompassing Appalachian history, as these states have the largest portions in Appalachia. Overall, the socio-politics of moonshine impacted the Appalachian region from the mid-19th to early 20th century and played a key role in how the U.S. viewed the Appalachians and how the Appalachians viewed themselves.

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