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June 17, 2024

Railroads, whiskey and moonlight: Meet ‘Snap’ McCoy, Hagerstown’s prolific moonshiner

Article Author: Abigail Koontz (This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail July, 2024) While American gangsters Al Capone and Bugs Moran were terrorizing Chicago, over 631 miles away in Washington County, local moonshiner Harry “Snap” McCoy was busy distilling and selling illegal liquor in Hagerstown and the surrounding communities. McCoy’s story captures the turbulent years of Prohibition and the history of moonshiners active in Washington County during that time. McCoy was born Jan. 7, 1870, to blacksmith Elbert McCoy and Emma (Ardinger) of Williamsport. In 1878, Elbert died of tuberculosis, leaving Emma to care for five children. McCoy’s childhood in Williamsport was a bustling, novel one. The Cumberland Valley Railroad reached the outskirts of Williamsport in 1872. The following year, the Western Maryland Railroad ran directly into Williamsport, connecting to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The railroad had a profound effect on McCoy. Although he only completed the fourth grade, by age 30 he worked as a conductor for the WMRR in Williamsport. A 1906 photograph in the Washington County Historical Society collection captures McCoy posing for the camera beside his friend, Sam McClannahan, at the train station. An oncoming train is visible just over their shoulders. In January 1919, […]
June 13, 2018

Women fight for their rights – and their fashions?

I’ve been thinking a lot about ladies recently. Besides being an absolutely delightful one myself, I spend a lot of time around powerful, accomplished, intelligent women who work hard every day to make life better for those around them. On a much larger scale, it is impossible to deny that American women are once again in the spotlight, receiving national attention as we define women’s rights, roles, and personal agency moving into the 21st century. American women were doing much the same 100 years ago as the world moved into the 20th century. Questions about women’s rights, roles, and personal agency needed to be answered for a rapidly changing world. The answers to those questions revealed themselves in a variety of ways – in the passage of the 18th and 20th Amendments, which started Prohibition and granted women the right to vote, respectively, and in the swift and major changes in women’s apparel from the 1890s to the 1920s. While changes in fashion might seem frivolous next to major political change, women’s clothing and activities have always closely reflected that society’s attitudes towards women. Women’s leisure clothing saw the largest innovations and changes as women gained more agency within American […]