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“First in Moonshine: North Carolina and the Illegal Liquor Business,” a talk by Dr. Daniel S. Pierce

September 10, 2020 @ 7:00 pm 8:00 pm

Event banner for "First in Moonshing," a talk by Daniel S. Pierce

You are invited to explore the history of moonshine in North Carolina during a virtual talk by Dr. Daniel S. Pierce on September 10th at 7:00 pm. Registration details below.

From the mountains to the coast, the history of distilling in North Carolina provides an example of how water shapes our history and culture. Even the word “whiskey” can be rooted to the phrase aqua vitae, or “water of life.”

The history of moonshining especially shows how people put water to work in creative and resourceful ways. Hulda Nines was one of these resourceful North Carolinians. Nines ran a still on the banks of the Neuse River in northern Wake County for ten years, until her secret operation was discovered in 1902.

Picture of moonshine still in NC mountains.
Moonshine still in the mountains of North Carolina, courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina.

Dr. Pierce’s talk will explore North Carolina’s long, tumultuous and on-going relationship with moonshine. Since the Civil War and the passage of the federal excise tax on liquor, North Carolinians—of all races, ethnicities, ages, and genders and in every part of the state—have participated in the illegal liquor business in some shape, form, or fashion. Pierce will discuss how moonshining was an important economic activity, shaped politics and community relations, and helped create a distinctive culture in the state (think NASCAR, Andy Griffith, and “Thunder Road”). Pierce will also particularly focus on moonshining in and around Wake County. 

Cover of Tar Hell Lightnin' by Daniel S. Pierce
Tar Heel Lightnin’ by Daniel S. Pierce

Dr. Daniel S. Pierce is professor of history at the University of North Carolina Asheville. He is the author of Tar Heel Lightnin’: How Secret Stills and Fast Cars Made North Carolina the Moonshine Capital of the World. His previous books include Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France.

Program Recording


This program is free and open to the public. Registration is required. Instructions for joining the Zoom Webinar will be sent in advance of the program date.

Participants can register below or on eventbrite.com.

This event is part of Water/Ways, a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition that explores water’s environmental and cultural impact. Water/Ways is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the North Carolina Humanities Council, and was adapted from an exhibition organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York.

This event is made possible by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the North Carolina Humanities council.