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Hillbilly Stereotypes in Material Objects

Exploring Appalachian Stereotypes Using the Artifact Teaching Collection

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The hillbilly character is often used to get a laugh or add playfulness. 

Hillbilly Bartender's Apron 2003.26.1

This bartender's apron ca. 1950s was likely made for the home bar scene that emerged in post-WWII suburban America. During the 1950s and 60s, hillbilly-themed home bar accessories were quite common.  These may have been trying the leverage the social resistance and moonshine aspects of the stereotype. 

Dimension: 36" L X 23" W; screen print on made of muslin. 

Maw and Paw Coffee Mugs 2003.36.1-2

[Accessions 2003.36.1-2]

This is a set of ceramic coffee mugs demonstrates how the male and female versions of the hillbilly stereotype may differ.  The stereotype is really compound, consisting of several characters, "Maw," "Pa," children, young unmarried males and females, their dogs, outsiders, and the relationships between all of them.  Notice how this "Maw" mug depicts a "hillbilly" woman in her home doing domestic work while smoking a pipe, while the "Paw" mug depicts a "hillbilly" man, half in and half out of an outhouse, making and drinking "moonshine."  Ma and Pa mugs are a common genre of hillbilly artifacts made by many companies.  Many of them, while by different artists, replicate similar gendered characteristics. 

Three Mountaineers Wooden Bathroom Sign 2004.2.1

[Accession 2004.2.1]

This humorous or gag item leverages the hillbilly stereotype's association with outhouses and poor hygiene.  It was made by "Three Mountaineers, Inc." in Asheville, North Carolina ca. 1945.   It was perhaps sold as a souvenir to Asheville tourists. 

Parker Brothers "Plug-A-Jug" Game 2003.29.1

[Accession 2003.29.1]

This family game, made by Parker Brothers was released in 1969 following on the popularity of the Beverly Hillbillies television series. The appearance of a family game based on a moonshine jug demonstrates how the popularity of the show made hillbilly imagery so mainstream in America that it even appeared on a family game. 

The game consists of a plastic jug with cork, twenty-eight plastic letters, a black wooden marble, and a die. This example is worn and incomplete. Directions for play are as follows:

"Open the Jug at the bottom and take out the plastic bag. Remove the die and pour the letters and marble in the jug and reclose.... Place the Jug in the center of the playing area and start rolling the die, in turn, moving clockwise. Players are allowed just one roll per turn. The first player to roll a Jug symbol quickly removes the cork from the Jug and begins shaking letters into his hand. While that player is trying to spell PLUG-A-JUG, the others try, in turn, to roll a Cork symbol. As soon as a player rolls a Cork symbol, the one with the Jug must put it down, return any extra letters to the jug and replace the Cork. If a player shakes out the marble and gets caught with it, he must return all of his letters and start over. The player to the left of teh one who rolled the Cork symbol then rolls the die and play continues. The first player to spell PLUG-A-JUG wins the game. The Jug contains enough letters so that up to four players have an equal chance to win." 

Hillbilly Dancing Legs Doll 2005.67.1

[Accession 2005.67.1]

The doll was made as a hanging decoration with legs that dance as it bounces.  It combines elf and hillbilly characteristics to create a cute hilliblly motif.  It is ca. 1990-2005.