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Hillbilly Stereotypes in Material Objects

Exploring Appalachian Stereotypes Using the Artifact Teaching Collection


This virtual exhibit is based on work by Student Curatorial Associate Brittney Westbrook.  Westbrook selected the artifacts, compiled the information, and photographed the objects. In 2013 Student Curatorial Associate Travis Rigg edited and produced this virtual exhibit. Revisions were made in 2015 Student Curatorial Associate Kathryn Dunn and 2020 by supervising curator Christopher Miller.

LJAC Artifact Guides

The Appalachian Artifacts Teaching Collection is held by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College. For additional information or to access the collection contact Curator Christopher Miller.  Explore more of our virtual exhibits and collections using the links below.

About this Page

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.