Object Record

Object Name Still
Catalog Number 2012.017.001.a-m
Description A hand-made copper moonshine still with perhaps a few missing pieces. The copper tubing is clearly hand made and beaten together. Moonshine stills were made of copper because it is a good thermal conductor and removes toxins from alcohol.
Because of the illegality of moonshine, moonshiners did not necessarily have a standard method for the process or the assembly of stills and they often worked with the tools and ingredients that were accessible to them, which is exemplified by this group of artifacts. This still was perhaps used during the prohibition era, when moonshining was at its height of production in American history as indicated by the lack of copper erosion on the pieces of metal and residue from coal at the base of the still.

a,b). The portion of the still where fermentation occurred. "b" connects to the top of "a". The "mash", most commonly sugar or cornmeal, was soaked in hot water and yeast and broken down. The still rested on a stone furnace and was heated throughout the fermentation process. Evaporated alcohol and water passed into "b" for the distillation process. The bottom of the still contains residue from a heat source below, most likely coal. The copper tube that comes out of the bottom has been flattened. This still could ferment around 20 gallons of ingredients.

c). The cap arm that connects the tube that comes out of the top of "b". Alcohol would build pressure inside the still and pass it through the cap arm pipe.

d). A copper tube that perhaps connected to a "thumping bucket", which is a wooden barrel where pieces of cornmeal would be filtered out to maintain the purity of the alcohol. We do not have the barrel.

e). A copper tube that perhaps connected the pure alcohol from the wooden barrel to the coil for condensation.

f). The coil, also commonly called the "worm", is a very important part of the distillation process. It is where the alcohol is condensed. Commonly the coil would wrap around a barrel of ice or submerged in cold water, whichever was most accessible to the moonshiner. The distilled alcohol would wind down the coil and out of the spout.

g). A funnel perhaps made of tin or aluminum that was used to dispense the moonshine from the spout into individual containers.

h). An iron ladle that was perhaps used to transfer or stir the cornmeal or the moonshine.

i). A large copper bucket that was perhaps used to contain the cornmeal. It contains marks from stirring.

j). A wide, hand-made copper bowl. The purpose of the bowl in relation to the moonshine still is unclear.

k). A wide, long hand-made copper bowl. Contains small punctures to the bottom which indicates it was perhaps used for draining. The distinct purpose of the bowl in relation to the moonshine still is unclear.

l). An "L" shaped piece of the still that perhaps connects the arm to the thumping bucket. This piece was found in off-site storage on 10/22/2012. The whole still has not been put together since this piece was discovered.

m) Additional matching copper bucket that was found in Offsite Storage in June 2016.
Date 1920-1930 circa
Dimension Details a) height: 30", diameter: 28"
b) height: 22", diameter: 14.5"
a,b together). height: 50"

c). length: 36"
d). length: 17.5"
e). length: 22"
f). diameter: 21.5", height: 8.5"
g) diameter: 6", height: 7.5"
h). length: 26"
i). diameter: 23", height: 16"
j). length: 18" width:13"
k). length:21" width:14"
l). length: 53"
Accession number 2012.017