The Moonshine Ladies

31 Aug
Martha Napier and Mary Manley

Martha Napier and Mary Manley

In July, GCHS archivist James Richmond happened across the above picture listed for sale at an online auction site. Thanks to fast action from Mr. Richmond and GCHS director Phyllis Silber, they were able to obtain this original press photograph for the Goochland County Historical Society photographic collection. The photograph is mother and daughter, Martha Napier and Mary Manley sitting in jail. These two suffered the misfortune of getting caught making moonshine during the infamous period in American history known as Prohibition.

The two women were arrested and convicted on December 8, 1930 for operating a still in Goochland. The ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920 ushered in a period when the production, sale, transportation, importation and exportation of alcoholic beverages was prohibited in the United States. Prohibition lasted until 1933 when the unpopular law was finally repealed. Bootleggers, such as the two women pictured, set up stills to produce moonshine to fulfill the needs of drinkers. Moonshine, produced primarily in the southern states, was so called due to its being produced under the shine of the moon and was also called “hooch” and “White lightening”. Mrs. Napier and Mrs. Manley pled not guilty but the evidence convicted them anyway. They were sentenced to one year in jail and a $50.00 fine. According to the note on the back of the photograph, they were then “remanded to the Henrico County jail because the jail of this county is unsafe”!

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