Economics of Bootlegging in the 1950s — Junior Johnson

“A gallon of whiskey [bore] … $11 tax.  You could make it for 75 cents to a dollar and sell it for $3 or $4. . . .  It’s the same way today if you beat the government out of taxes.  It’s what everyone was trying to do back then.”  Junior Johnson, quoted in Peter Golenbock, American Zoom (MacMillan, New York, 1993), page 22.

The federal liquor tax from 1951 to 1985 was $10.50 per proof gallon.  It’s $13.50 today, but with inflation, the tax burden is much less now.

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Author: patoglesby

From 1982 to 1990, I worked in tax policy for Committees of the United States Congress. In recent years, I was Adjunct Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill's Business School and then Adjunct Professor at its Law School.

2 thoughts on “Economics of Bootlegging in the 1950s — Junior Johnson”

  1. My mom left notes after she passed referring to bootlegging in Kentucky in the 1950’s. As I am interested in deciphering her random notes, I wanted to find out how prevalent it was and if her notes are true memories o not. She basically accuses my father of being involved in this underground network. I can see that bootleggers could sell for less money due to taxes, but I don’t see much about this activity in the 50’s.

    Thank you for any information you can share.

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