Stephen Yan

Mourane, J. H. 1923. The Tar Heel, April 10, 1923.


In his article published in The Tar Heel, the campus newspaper, J. H. Mourane compares the production of legal and illegal alcohol and cautions against consuming illegal alcohol due to producers’ lack of scientific and technical knowledge.

The writer of the article, Joseph Harley Mourane, was a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate in the class of 1922. He was an assistant in Chemistry and graduated as a Chemist.[1]

As of the date of publication of the letter, a state-wide prohibition law had been in effect for 15 years, but it had little direct effect on UNC campus.[2] Even though the law eliminated the production of legal alcohol, bootleg liquor remained a problem on campus. The continuation of alcohol consumption pushed the university to take actions, aiming to better enforce its prohibition policies. One of the most drastic responses was the suspension of all dances on or off campus from Thanksgiving to the end of Easter break.[3]

Mourane’s article offers a unique angle looking at the popularity of moonshine in the era of prohibition. The writer took the stance of an “interested spectator” who was neither for or against the consumption of alcohol; his focus was strictly on moonshine.[4] Unlike many during the prohibition era, Mourane’s voice represented a new perspective which saw moonshine as a health issue instead of a political, economic, or moral issue.

The article is also a telling reflection of the reality on campus during the prohibition era. Despite the efforts from the government and the university, “moonshine is very plentiful around Chapel Hill.”[5] Banning alcohol production led to the degradation of quality control and regulation over alcoholic products. The transition of alcohol production from the hands of “scientists” to “amateurs” made alcohol a, arguably, bigger threat to the academic and physical well-being of students and to the orderly operation of the university.[6]



[1] University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Yackety Yack [1922]. Chapel Hill, NC, 1922. Pg. 81. The Dialectic and Philanthropic Literary Societies and The Fraternities of The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. North Carolina Yearbooks Digital Collection, DigitalNC. Accessed on November 4, 2018.

[2] Japha, Alex. 2016. “‘All Dances Will Be Suspended’: The Effect of Prohibition at UNC in 1925.” For the Record. UNC University Archives. April 5, 2016.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Mourane, J. H. 1923. The Tar Heel, April 10, 1923.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.