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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Department of History

Advisor(s)

Dan Kerr

Gabrielle Lanier

David Dillard

Abstract

Known as the second oldest profession, moonshining has had a significant presence in Rockingham County since the influx of Scots-Irish settlement in the Shenandoah Valley in the mid-1700s. Once used as a commodity for barter and sale and an ingredient in home remedies, a limited number of people still continue to make moonshine. But the practice is most widespread as the subject of oral histories and folklore as told by Rockingham County residents. Often framed as an honorable tradition whose practitioners were heroes and at times even martyrs in their communities, the collective narrative of those closest to moonshining—the sons, daughters, wives, and neighbors of moonshiners and moonshiners themselves—suggests a nostalgic worldview of an illegal practice. Basing the bulk of my research on over fifteen oral histories, I will discuss the way in which moonshining‟s relationship to three themes—natural environment, family and community, and folkways—shape and reflect how local residents positively perceive moonshiners and how moonshiners perceive themselves. The discussion will conclude with a commentary on the paradoxical state of moonshining currently in Rockingham County and the contradictions that arise from claiming to be a traditionalist as compared to a capitalist moonshiner.

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