The Second Oldest Profession:
An Informal History of Moonshining in America

by Jess Carr

Jess Carr: The Second Oldest Profession (Prentice-Hall, Inc.)

Prentice-Hall, Inc. (1972). Index. 250pp. 6.25 x 9.375 inches. Hardcover. ISBN 0-13-797563-5.


Dust Jacket Notes

About the Book

Since everyone thinks he knows what the oldest profession is, Jess Carr allows that the making and selling of strong spirits might have to be called mankind's second most enduring enterprise. Our founding fathers, anticipating the usual inseparability of man and drink, established liquor taxes and regulations almost as soon as they established a country! Here is the story of those spirited Americans who have tried to outsmart the Internal Revenue while servicing our thirst.

The Second Oldest Profession is a careful tracing of this high-proof Americana — illicit whiskey-making — from fermenting in antiquity (and the monumental discovery of stillin') to early colonist and Indian ventures in the art, through the Whiskey Rebellion, the Civil War, Prohibition, right up to the present day of highly technical tractor-trailer moonshining.

The author explains why stout-hearted moonshiners have always congregated in the South and rural areas (there are other reasons that that great Kentucky limestone water, secluded caves and cornpatches). But we find that moonshining is very much a big city drama, too — plague of the ghettoes, darling of the underworld, staple of the fast-buck man (and many a race-car driver got his training making liquor runs northward in a 1940 Ford).

This conscientious history of an unconscionable profession is full of strange lingo, intrigue, and local color (the country moonshiner has always been king of his county, and his daughter's wedding would last a gala two days). In the long guerrilla war between the moonshiners and the revenooers, the author takes us along on many a shoot-out and still raid. Revenooers have also had to battle local lawmakers, themselves not adverse to a little moonshine consumption — not to mention the mass passive resistance of moonshine sympathizers. Today moonshine and moonshine-hunting is still big industry, with over 18,000 still seizures a year during the 1960's.

With Jess Carr we stalk woodland trails to hear directly from professional moonshiners, and discover the personality and motivation of the moonshiner — and his customer — why a raw, colorless liquid (white lightnin', white mule, panther's breath) should inspire such persistent devotion. The endlessly varied construction of stills, and their operations and camouflages, are described, as well as the various ingredients of the sizzling stuff. We learn exactly why, despite all romance, there can be grave danger in touching a jug of moonshine to dry lips — blindness, lead poisoning, or worse!

Full of fact and floklore, this is the only complete history of this evasive subject ever written.

Jess Carr

Jess Carr (photograph by Marguerite Gunn).

About the Author

A native of southwest Virginia, Jess Carr has lived and worked among the mountain people most of his life. He is a graduate of Coyne Technical School in Chicago, and served with the Marine Corps during the Korean War. Before be began his full-time writing career, Mr. Carr held a variety of jobs including country store-keeper, part-time barber, lumberjack, and president of a commercial printing firm. Mr. Carr lives in Radford, Virginia, with his wife and three young daughters.

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