Moonshining is an illicit tradition in American history that dates far back to the Scots-Irish that immigrated across the Atlantic Ocean, and from there has influenced our television, music, and even sports ever since.
Moonshine is generally just slang for illegal alcohol. The word goes back to the British word, “moonrakers” which described criminals who operated during moonlit hours. Moonshine generally is made from fermented and distilled corn mash, making it a whisky. Moonshining was a tradition of the Irish and Scottish immigrants, who mostly settled in the Appalachian Mountains.
Moonshiners first became popular in the early 20th Century as the prohibition act (18th Amendment to the US Constitution, January 16, 1920), which outlawed the sale and possession of alcohol in the United States, took effect and Appalachian peoples realized it was easier and more profitable to turn their corn into whisky. During a time when money was scarce this was often the only source of income families from the Appalachian Mountains had.
As the creation of illegal alcohol became more and more profitable, Moonshiners began to trade in horse drawn carriages for automobiles. And with the new cars came modifications in order to outrun law enforcement that sought to arrest the criminals. The modified stock cars then began racing each other, and this is what led to the National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR).
Moonshine is feared by many. It is rumored that bad moonshine will lead to blindness, but that’s mostly untrue. That’s not to say Moonshine is harmless, if made incorrectly moonshine can be full of impurities such as radiator fluid from distilleries or paint varnish from spills, not to mention all alcohol has eventual negative effects of the brain, heart and liver.
Today Moonshining is seen as part of American iconography. The Moonshiner is often seen as a folk hero, evading the strong arm of the law and making his own in the world. The rugged freedom of living outside the law is popular with many who see it as the American way to rebel, throughout all of history.
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