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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Moonshine: 1920

Moonshine: 1920

"Jordan Piano Co., moonshine window." Circa 1920, another fall-themed window display at Jordan Piano in Washington, D.C. National Photo Co. View full size.

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The Moon Shines on the Moonshine

Hm, it's looking like I'm the only one replying to this who actually listens to old records from this era? (I mean the actual records, not digital copies found online.)

The record of "The Moon Shines on the Moonshine" by Bert Williams is indeed justly famous and found reproduced widely over the Internet. It sold over a quarter million copies for Columbia Records, not Victor.

Columbia had two hit records with this early Prohibition song. In addition to the classic Bert Williams vocal rendition, the hot instrumental version by Ted Lewis's Jazz Band also sold well.

Edison Records had a decent cover version by vaudevillians Jones & Hare.

The Victor Talking Machine Company issued a forgettable cover recorded by Sidney Phillips. That's what this display window is trying to sell. Not many people seem to have fallen for this bait-and-switch, judging by the rarity of the Victor compared to the Bert Williams version, or even the Ted Lewis and Jones & Hare discs.

Bert Williams

Bert Williams was a well-known black comedian who did a series of recordings during the Prohibition era. "Moonshine" is about the backwoods types who ran stills making moonshine: "But in the mountain tops, far from the eyes of cops, oh how the moon shines on the moonshine."

An aged neighbor left me a Victrola when I was maybe 8 years old (1945) and a collection of 78s, including Bert's "Possum Hunt," "Somebody" and "When The Moon Shines on the Moonshine."

Victor IV

The Victor IV in the photograph IS the internal horn style. Note how the tone arm curves down, into the cabinet.

Good use of old horns!

The store owner's made good use of outdated stock...the phono horn used in the "still" is actually an out of date cylinder phono horn, probably unsold store stock. By 1920, the only cylinder machines still for sale were internal horn ones, such as Edison's Amberola line. 1920 was also near the end of outside horn machines for flat record phonos also...the Victor IV advertised in the window sign was definitely considered an out of date model, since housewives preferred internal horn Victrolas...even though the external horns gave better sound reproduction!

His Master's Voice

I love the Nipper statues in the display, but it's odd not having them positioned in front of a gramophone horn.

The Hillbilly's Gun

That's the first hillbilly I ever saw with a World War 1 German Mauser! It looks like it has a cork in the barrel.


Amazingly, Bert Williams singing "When the Moon Shines on the Moonshine" is available as an mp3 all over the web. I expected a hillbilly tune but it sounds like a torch song.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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