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The government estimated that there were approximately 2,000 stills in the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee in 1877. Assuming they operated 20 days a month, 4 months a year, and produced 15 gallons a day, federal agents concluded that by selling illegal, untaxed liquor, moonshiners were depriving the federal government of $2,500,000 a year in uncollected taxes.
The law of supply and demand
State-level Prohibition increased the pressure on moonshiners, as they were pursued by both federal and state officials. It also forced moonshiners to expand their markets in many cases; if they were going to supply more and more people, they had to transport the liquor further and further afield.
By 1916, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and West Virginia were all officially "dry" states.
This meant moonshining was increasingly becoming a big business, with bootleggers, the people who transported the liquor, playing a bigger and bigger role in the process.
Before Prohibition, moonshiners often sold their product relatively locally, relying on
lumber and mining camps, textile mill villages and larger towns such as county seats to
provide the bulk of their customers. Many of their customers were too poor to drink
regularly or heavily.
A woman and her children in moonshine country;
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