Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Moonshine, Mayhem and the IRS by Kimberly Grist


IRS Established to Collect Luxury Tax

In 1861, during the Civil War, Lincoln was at war and in a financial bind. To raise money, he pushed Congress to pass an income tax. So in an attempt to balance the national budget, Congress created the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 1862. Their mission was to collect taxes on liquor, tobacco, and other “luxuries.”

The cartoon's caption read: ‘Scroggs says he is ready and willing to pay any amount of tax, but he would like them to leave his wife’s crinoline and other domestic trifles alone.’

The cartoon above, published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper after the Revenue Act went into effect, depicts the tax as improper and invasive. In the drawing, four federal tax collectors investigate the home of an American citizen who s caught in the act of arranging his hair while one tax commissioner fingers his pocket watch, another peeks under his wife’s skirts as the other agents rummage through the couple’s clothes and look under the bed.

The Making of Mash- Not a Hobby For Some

Many farmers found it cheaper and easier to transport corn as mash to feed livestock or use in the distillery business and refused to discontinue or pay the tax. At the time, producing "moonshine" was not in and of itself illegal, but attempts by producers to avoid paying the federal tax was. Such people became known as “moonshiners” because they operated their illegal stills at night.


Cheaper to Transport
A farmer could produce enough liquor to meet family and local community needs by using a copper turnip-type still and wooden barrels for mixing mash and storing whiskey. Three bushels of dried corn or seven bushels of apples could be distilled into about two gallons of alcohol. The whiskey had a higher cash value and took up less space than the raw ingredients. After the distilling process was complete, farmers could use any “slop” left in the still to feed livestock. For many, the making and selling of brandy, corn liquor, or whiskey was not a hobby but a matter of survival and how they supported their families. 

Moonshiners referred to Revenue Agents as"Revenuers." Agents were eventually issued rifles, and the IRS officials cracked down harshly on moonshiners, leading to many violent conflicts throughout the country.

  • By 1865 the tax was two dollars per gallon, up to 12 times the actual cost of making a gallon of liquor.
  • From 1868 until 1913, approximately 90% of tax revenue came from beer, liquor, wine, and tobacco.

Why The XXX Marking?

The XXX mark indicated how often the alcohol had been passed through the still, indicating to purchasers that it was pure and potent alcohol.

Alcohol for Medicinal Purposes
During the 19th Century, Alcohol was used in various forms as medication for various ailments, including cough, snake bites, and was the main pain-killer used in surgery.
Coming Soon:
Bethel: Runaway Brides of The West - Book 18
While researching the luxury tax implemented in 1862, my imagination took flight as I considered what it might have been like to be a young woman living in a state left destitute by the war, with few resources. What choice might I have made if my family's next meal depended on the revenue made from Apple or Peach Brandy and corn liquor? Life as a bootlegger wasn't easy. What extreme measures would I have taken in order not to be caught or escape? 


Daughter of a traveling merchant, Bethel is tired of peddling her Daddy’s "Special Sauce" and being run out of town by every sheriff east of the Mississippi. That’s why she’s heading west. She just needs to sell a few more bottles to help fund her trip. After all, who wants to meet their new husband looking like a gypsy? If only she could shake off this pesky detective waiting at the stage stop.

Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th -century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance, emphasizing Faith, Friends, and Good, Clean Fun.
Connect with Kimberly:
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kimberly-grist
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FaithFunandFriends/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GristKimberly
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kimberly-Grist/e/B07H2NTJ71

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