Saturday, February 18, 2017

Moonshine, Bootleggers and NASCAR



The word "moonshine" is believed to be derived from the term "moonrakers" used for early English smugglers who did their work at night, that is, by the light of the moon. This in turn gave rise to “moonshine” as the term for illegally distilled whiskey, the Appalachian distillers doing their production and distribution at night.

Californian police agents dump illegal alcohol in 1925,


Until the late 1800’s, the term “bootleg” meant the upper part of a tall boot. Those bootlegs provided convenient places to secrete items such as guns and knives. They also served to hide flasks of liquor. 

A woman secreting a whiskey flask in her bootleg.
The swastika on the floor was considered a good luck symbol prior to the adoption of it by the Nazis.

From there it came to be applied to anything surreptitiously transported, sold or possessed. The term spread widely during Prohibition (1920-1933) in the United States, when production and possession of alcoholic beverages was outlawed by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution. Those illegally distributing the unlawfully produced whiskey were known as “bootleggers”. Today the term refers generally to anything illegally obtained or sold: bootleg DVD’s, recordings, software, cosmetics etc. Interestingly it is usually used to describe something for which a lawful equivalent exists, hence there are bootleg DVD’s but there is no bootleg cocaine.

A truck ingeniously camouflaged by bootleggers during Prohibition, being inspected by authorities in Los Angeles, California.

Some prohibition pics . . .

Destruction of bootleg liquor


NASCAR and Bootleggers:

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) evolved out of bootlegging. Drivers ran bootleg whiskey, made primarily in the Appalachian region of the United States, to distribution outlets. They typically used small, fast vehicles to better evade the police and many modified their cars for speed and handling, as well as increased cargo capacity. For many the fast paced drive down twisty mountain roads became a thrill in itself. Prohibition was repealed in 1933 but many members of the public continued their taste for moonshine, keeping the drivers in business as they maintained their fast driving to avoid “revenuers”. As cars continued to improve, races and competitions amongst drivers started taking place away from the illicit alcohol delivery, especially in the southern states. That evolved into NASCAR. These days there is an annual reunion featuring retired moonshiners and the former federal agents who once chased them.



Beginnings of NASCAR:


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