Repeal barely passed in Tennessee, with just over 51% of voters approving the end of Prohibition on July 20, 1933. A convention ratified that decision on August 11. The stories below illustrate the huge problem Tennessee had with very poisonous bootleg liquor, a problem which does a great deal to explain how repeal passed in a state as dry as Tennessee.

  • Multiple newspapers ran stories about a mysterious paralysis epidemic that struck Tennessee iin 1930. According to reports, there were as many fifty cases of this paralysis, and “several of the patients had been drinking liquor of questionable quality.” Given this, experts considered “the possibility that poison alcohol could be the cause.”

  • In 1925, an article ran about a specific type of moonshine from Tennessee that was especially deadly. Ingredients included both lye and poison ivy, and drinkers of it were described as having “their lips protruding out and their tongues hanging out, the mucous membrane of the mouth burned off by the fiery fluid.”


AUTO LIQUID KILLS FOUR SIOUX INDIANS The Washington Post (1877-1954); Mar 10, 1930; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877 – 1991) pg. 3

PARALYSIS RAMPANT Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File); Mar 10, 1930; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 – 1986) pg. 1

POISON IVY AND LYE IN MOONSHINE NOW Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1857-Current file); Dec 25, 1925; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2004) pg. 20