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Hillbilly Stereotypes in Material Objects

Exploring Appalachian Stereotypes Using the Artifact Teaching Collection

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During the mid-20th century several soft drinks, or soda pops if your prefer, as well as hard or alcoholic drinks were branded using a moonshine-hillbilly theme. These leverage the strong association between the hillbilly character and moonshine to make an association between a beverage with the mystic of moonshine.

"Hillbilly Joose" Soda Can 2002.33.1

[Accession 2002.33.1]

This 12 oz. soda can demonstrates how a few visual symbols combine to clearly and easily evoke the hillibilly stereotype.  A reclining man, with a beard, tattered hat, bare feet, and patched clothing, holding onto a jug = hillbilly. The product was distributed by Cotton Club Bottling of New York ca. 1955-70. 

This is a three-piece steel beverage can with a pull tab. Markings include: "Hill Billy JOOSE WITH THAT 'HUG-A-JUG FLAVOR WORTH FUEDIN' AND FIGHTIN' FOR'."  Pull tab openers once were the cause of serious litter problems.  They began to be replaced in the mid-1970s.

"Hillbilly Brew" Soda Bottle 2004.39.1

[Accession 2004.39.1]

Lil' Brown Jug's Hillbilly Brew takes a different angle with it's imagery—a female moonshiner.  The words: "Refreshing as a cup of coffee" may hint at caffeine content.  Most of the moonshine-theme soft drinks were markedly caffeinated.  This product is ca. 1965-85.

Hillbilly Beverages Soda Can 2003.35.1 & Bottle 2004.40.1


Hillbilly Beverages was based in Richland Center, Wisconsin.  These are ca. 1975-85.

Pocono "Hillbilly Red Pop" Soda Can Coin Bank 2004.26.1

[Accession 2004.26.1]

This Pocono Beverages can implies that hillbillies also live in Pocono Mountains, a part of northeastern Pennsylvania.  The can depicts an entire "hillbilly" family. This soda can was made with a slotted top to be used as a coin bank.  It is ca. 1965-75.

Stitzel-Weller Hillbilly Bourbon Decanter 2002.18.1

[Accession 2002.18.1]

This object is a commemorative/collectable whiskey bottle for Old Cabin Still Whiskey made by Stitzel-Weller Distillery of Louisville, Kentucky, around 1969.  Perhaps it is a more artistic and sympathetic representation of a hillbilly, but it does utilize the visual clues of of the stereotype: tattered hat, overalls off the shoulder, rifle close by, and hugging a jug.  This bottle was sold full of bourbon.  A Kansas liquor tax stamp is located the on the left arm and a US revenue stamp is located on the back of the figure's hat.