“White Lightning” and the Federal Government

Distilling to make an achocholic drink is said to have been around for 3,000 years.  The practice is know to have been in operation in Virginia since 1620.   

In 1629, the Virginia Colonial Assembly established that “Ministers shall not give themselves to excess in drinkinge, or riott, or spending their tyme idellye day or night.”
I like to sleep at night and sometimes find myself idle during the day, but drinking and rioting are out.


We know the problems that alcoholism brings and drinking is expensive.  During the Civil War in 1862 a tax, which began at 20 cents on a gallon of whiskey and beer, rose by 1868 to two dollars a gallon.  When the federal government got involved they noticed that: as the rates increased, the revenue did not.  And the reported number of gallons produced went way down.  So in 1868, the Feds appropriated $25,000 to look for tax cheats. 

A campaign of state prohibition laws against alcohol came about from 1880  to 1890. The temperance supports wanted a total ban of production and sale of alcohol.  Six states enacted a statewide ban on the product and its use.   By 1913, nine states were under stateside prohibition and in 1914 Virginia banned the sale and use of alcohol products.  But all the government efforts never stopped the back woods industry.  Most people thought of the illegal tax evasion as a joke.  My wife Nancye’s relatives came down to Danville from Franklin County, Virginia during the 1930s.  Here are some kinfolks at their turnip still in the 1920s:

 

 Lewis Washington “Fat Lewis” Quinn, Claudia Ingram, Grover Ingram, unknown, Ida Ingram, Lehi Ingram, Sarepta Turner “Rep” Ingram and Cora Ingram.  This turnip still was a small family operation.  The grain was fermented in barrels and the liquid poured into the still itself.  The steam went through a coin of tubing to cool and produce the distilled achochol drink. “White Lightning” and “Moonshine” became terms to describe the illegal operation of making, transporting and selling illegal whiskey.  Another term to describe the practice was “bootlegging.”  This came from the practice of hiding flasks in the leggings of boots.  Some of the early NASCAR drivers hauled gallon jars “moonshine” from the mountains.  I grew up in North Danville not far from Wendell Scott who became the first Black NASCAR diver. In the 1950s, I worked in a grocery store and Wendell would come in just before 9 pm to buy his weekly groceries.  He was a hard working auto machanic who was well-liked in the communityu.  He was a friendly person and most people, including law enforcement, knew he was involved in not quite legal activities, were reluctant to report the activities.  Most people back in the 1940s and 50s just laughed off the idea that someone was selling illegal whiskey.  They probably thought the government takes too much of our money anyway.  The moonshiners capitalized on two loves of many people; the love of whiskey and the love of evading taxes. 

It is unfortunate that some distillers used old car radiators in their process and people have been known to have gone blind or even died from lead poisoning.  One old time bootlegger in the mountains commented: “It aint made to drink, it’s made to sell.” 

Once in a while, then and even today, someone would get caught and receive heavy fines and long prison sentences.  Then the laughing stops. 

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

 

 

I grew up in North Danville not far from Wendell Scott who became the first Black NASCAR diver. In the 1950s, I worked in a grocery store and Wendell would come in just before 9 pm to buy his weekly groceries.  He was a hard working auto machanic who was well-liked in the communityu.  He was a friendly person and most people, including law enforcement, knew he was involved in not quite legal activities, were reluctant to report the activities.  Most people back in the 1940s and 50s just laughed off the idea that someone was selling illegal whiskey.  They probably thought the government takes too much of our money anyway.  The moonshiners capitalized on two loves of many people; the love of whiskey and the love of evading taxes. 

It is unfortunate that some distillers used old car radiators in their process and people have been known to have gone blind or even died from lead poisoning.  One old time bootlegger in the mountains commented: “It aint made to drink, it’s made to sell.” 

Once in a while, then and even today, someone would get caught and receive heavy fines and long prison sentences.  Then the laughing stops. 

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

 

 

I grew up in North Danville not far from Wendell Scott who became the first Black NASCAR diver. In the 1950s, I worked in a grocery store and Wendell would come in just before 9 pm to buy his weekly groceries.  He was a hard working auto machanic who was well-liked in the communityu.  He was a friendly person and most people, including law enforcement, knew he was involved in not quite legal activities, were reluctant to report the activities.  Most people back in the 1940s and 50s just laughed off the idea that someone was selling illegal whiskey.  They probably thought the government takes too much of our money anyway.  The moonshiners capitalized on two loves of many people; the love of whiskey and the love of evading taxes. 

It is unfortunate that some distillers used old car radiators in their process and people have been known to have gone blind or even died from lead poisoning.  One old time bootlegger in the mountains commented: “It aint made to drink, it’s made to sell.” 

Once in a while, then and even today, someone would get caught and receive heavy fines and long prison sentences.  Then the laughing stops. 

See blog index at:   http://rdricketts.com/blog/

History posters:

 

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