Moonshine History

In 1920, the National Prohibition Act, also known as the Volstead Act, was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. The law was the climax to many years of temperance movements, culminating in the enactment of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which established the national prohibition of alcohol in the United States. The 18th Amendment’s purposes were:

  1. to prohibit intoxicating beverages (any beverage containing more than 0.5% alcohol by volume; moonshine can run 40% to as high as 80% ABV);
  2. to regulate the manufacture, sale, or transport of intoxicating liquor (but not consumption); and
  3. to ensure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research and in the development of fuel, dye and other lawful industries and practices, such as religious rituals.

The Amendment provided that “no person shall manufacture, sell, barter, transport, import, export, deliver, or furnish any intoxicating liquor except as authorized by this act.”

With their freedom to distill and consume whiskey again threatened as it had been by the British Empire and then their own American government, whiskey drinking and moonshining Americans again rebelled against the outlaw of “intoxicating liquors.” The Roaring Twenties, speakeasies, and classic era of mobs and gangsters soon followed. Ironically, Prohibition actually helped to increase moonshine production – though Prohibition could change the law, it could not change a person’s proclivity toward drink.

It is also during this time that many of the common stereotypes of moonshine and whiskey were solidified. Pushing the production of whiskey underground led to a general decrease in quality and sanitation practices that often produced substandard, and downright dangerous, moonshine. Many of these stereotypes still survive today.

Prohibition is a fascinating period of our American history. Ordinary, otherwise law-abiding, American citizens driven underground merely because they enjoy the fermented and distilled fruits of corn. The creation of a whole subculture of citizens giving money to bootlegging gangsters like Al Capone to help fund their criminal activities. The formation of speakeasies, special secret clubs intricately designed to hide the alcohol consumption taking place within, often with ordinary folks drinking next to high-powered politicians that helped keep the law in place. Just an amazing time in American history.

Keep reading about the history of moonshine:

  1. Moonshine Whiskey and Colonial America
  2. American Revolution
  3. Whiskey Rebellion
  4. Prohibition
  5. Bootlegging
  6. NASCAR and Moonshine
  7. Popcorn Sutton
  8. Moonshining: An American Tradition
  9. The Future of Moonshine

Or you can view the entire Moonshine History article here.


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