The History Behind Moonshine

The word "moonshine" is generally assumed to have originated in the USA, meaning whiskey illegally made by moonlight. Because the activity of distilling illegal whiskey was usually done at night under the light of the moon, the word became both a verb, meaning making the liquor, and a noun, meaning the liquor that was made. However, the word was also used in eighteenth century England to describe brandy illegally smuggled in by moonlight as in the story of the "moonrakers." Moonshine can also mean "foolish talk," because of the belief that the moon can alter mental states. For whatever reason, there seems to be a poetic connection between the moon and alcohol.


The History From Our Own Boggs Family Tree

Dock Boggs was born February 7, 1898 in West Norton, Virginia. His parents named him Moran Lee after the one and only town doctor, Moran Lee Stallard, whom Dock's parents admired. He was youngest of ten children (four brothers and five sisters). His father began calling him "Dock," and as he grew older Dock began to dislike his given name. Although he continued to sign official documents M.L., when Dock made his first records he used the name Dock Boggs.

The years of 1910 through 1920 is considered to be the formative music years of Docks life. During this time he was influenced by numerous players: banjo picker and singer, Homer Crawford, his brother-in-law, Lee Hunsucker (preacher who taught Dock many songs), and his own brothers and sisters - brother Roscoe had a particularly strong influence on his music. Many people are not aware of this great old-time banjo player and his many contributions to the progress and development of banjo music. Some who know about him say that Dock learned so much from black musicians that he is a bridge between the nineteenth century black players and twentieth century southern white banjo players. Others admire him for his unique and interesting playing and singing style, praising him as an innovator. He is listed in the Smithsonian for Folkways recordings.

While Dock was trying to start his music career by playing banjo, he was also a coal miner. He earned 7 cents per hour working ten hour shifts. His first job in the mines was "trapping." This meant he was a traffic controller, making sure the drivers, mules and cars did not get in each other's way at intersections of railways in tunnels.

Realizing very quickly that this was very dangerous work with low pay, Dock began to get into the moonshine business to help compensate for more pay on the side. So over hundred years ago, the Boggs family name is back in the moonshine business….except now, we are LEGAL!!!


Famous Bootleggers – Moonshiner's

WILLIAM MCCOY - William McCoy was Prohibition's most famous rum runner. A teetotaler himself, Captain McCoy was proud of the fact that he never paid a dime to politicians, organized crime or law enforcement for protection. McCoy was a talented American sea captain who was thought of as an "honest law breaker." He was known as selling only clean uncut alcohol. Captain McCoy was captured on November 23, 1923 by the U.S. Coast Guard.

JOE KENNEDY - Though it was never proven that Joe Kennedy did something illegal, he was once known as the "Baptist Bootlegger." A businessman and father of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Joseph Kennedy made a lot of money during Prohibition. He was a client of Rocco Perri who along with his wife ran much of the bootlegging activity from Canada. The day Prohibition ended, Kennedy sold all his stock legally and made millions of dollars in profit.

AL CAPONE - Al Capone was the most notorious of all the bootleggers. He thrived on bootleg alcohol sales as well as prostitution, racketeering, gambling and other illegal activities. As a Chicago mobster, Capone built a bootlegging empire. He specialized in Canadian scotch whiskey and simply bought off anyone who got in his way. Al Capone got a lot of press in those days and was almost seen as a national emblem.

JAY GATSBY - Jay Gatsby is a fictional character in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby but he represents the lifestyle attained by prominent bootleggers during Prohibition. None of the other characters in the novel question his shady past but rather absorb the decadent society where wealth and status are king. Jay Gatsby's life is an allegory for a superficial time when you could get really rich really fast by smuggling booze.


The Bootlegger's Lament

I was going down the river to my little cabin home. The revenue man was waiting there for me. I was coming up the hill when they caught me with the still. Now I'll see you when the roses bloom again. They took me to the courthouse. The old judge was there. He didn't show me any sympathy. Said "You were feeling very frisky when they caught you with the whiskey." Now I'll see you when the roses bloom again. They took me to the jailhouse to serve my ninety days And now I'm on the county rolls to stay. I was feeling very fine when they caught me with my wine. Now I'll see you when the roses bloom again. When the roses bloom again beside the river, And the revenue men all have gone to rest, Then I know I'll soon have wine, so be patient, pal of mine, And I'll see you when the roses bloom again. When the roses bloom again beside the river, And the robin redbreast sings his melody, Then my heart will fill with cheer for I know I'll soon have beer, And I'll see you when the roses bloom again.

Come visit us at Palmetto Moonshine Distillery to learn more about the history of moonshine and taste a one of a kind corn whiskey! 'Shine Safely!

The History Of Moonshine From The 1600-2000

It began about 1620, when colonist George Thorpe figured out he could distill a mash from Indian corn. With the help of the Indians, Thorpe began to distill a fermented mash. "We have found a way to make some good drink of Indian corn. I have divers times refused to drink good strong English beer and chose to drink that," he wrote to his cousin in England, John Smith of Nibley. And with that a new spirit was born moonshine!!

There has to be a good reason to go to all the trouble of making moonshine. Actually, there have been several reasons, but they all boil down to one thing: government control of the alcohol trade. Shortly after the Revolution, the United States found itself struggling to pay for the expense of fighting a long war. The solution was to place a federal tax on liquors and spirits. The American people were not particularly pleased, especially after just fighting a war to get out from under oppressive British taxes (among other purposes). So they decided to keep on making whisky completely ignoring the federal tax. For these early moonshiners, making and selling alcohol wasn't a hobby or a way to make extra cash -- it was how they survived. Farmers could survive a bad year by turning their corn into profitable whisky, and the extra income made a harsh frontier existence almost bearable. To them, paying the tax meant they wouldn't be able to feed their families. Federal agents (called "Revenuers") were attacked when they came around to collect the tax, and several were tarred and feathered. All this resentment finally exploded in 1794, when several hundred angry citizens took over the city Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. President George Washington called for a gathering of militiamen under federal authority. Thirteen-thousand troops dispersed the mob and captured its leaders. This Whiskey Rebellion was the first major test of federal authority for the young government.

In 1920, the Volstead Act was passed, known as The National Prohibition Act. Liquor in America was now outlawed changing America's landscape dramatically. During the years of 1920-1933, moonshine production exploded. Gangsters soon took over the industry, creating large moonshining networks. Bootlegging of spirits was everywhere and the transportation of moonshine would begin in the remote southern hills in which our moonshine tradition runs strong. Moonshining was popular in many places in the South during the last part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century, but was concentrated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and western South Carolina. The rise of local and state-wide temperance or prohibition movements increased the demand for their supply and also exploded in metropolitan areas in such city areas as Chicago, Atlanta, and New York City. Proving Failure, the government repealed prohibition in 1933 but moonshine continued to flourish through the 30's and 40's.

During this time an unexpected cultural phenomenon was born "NASCAR." Nascar's history is as colorful as the logo-emblazoned stock cars that have made the sport famous. Its roots go back to Prohibition when runners—people who delivered moonshine, a home-brewed whiskey distilled from corn, potatoes or anything that would ferment—souped up their cars so they could give the slip to the federal tax agents determined to bust them (think Dukes of Hazard) and the show was actually born in the time of the prohibition. According to David "Turbo" Thompson, an associate professor at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, who has also raced stock cars. "Runners built their reputations by outsmarting and out driving the law," he says. For bragging rights, he adds, they held informal races to determine which runner was fastest. By the end of the 1940s, those contests had become an organized sport, largely due to the efforts of one driver, Big Bill France. Big Bill organized a meeting of drivers, car owners and mechanics at the art-deco style Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla., on December 14, 1947, to establish standard rules for racing. There and then the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (Nascar) was conceived. Two months later, on February 15, 1948, the first official Nascar race was held on the beach in Daytona. Red Byron won it in his Ford. A week later, Nascar was incorporated, and Big Bill appointed as its fearless leader.

It's Repeal Day, honoring the end of Prohibition. But as the beer taps and bottles of vodka flow, there's one spirit from that era making a comeback of sorts: moonshine. Prohibition is over and we are pleased to announce the rebirth of a whiskey legend in Palmetto Moonshine! It is time to forget the wine and drink some Shine.