The word first appeared in the 1850s in Maine and of course it refers to smuggling liquor. But this seemed odd to me because Prohibition didn’t start until almost 70 years later. That is, except in Maine, the first dry state, where it became illegal to manufacture or consume liquor in 1851. Because Maine shares a border with Canada, the law was easily flouted. Ordinary folks wanting to smuggle liquor into the country could hide a couple bottles in their pants legs in Canada and walk into the United States.
(Don’t jump to any conclusions about that pattern on the floor–before Hitler took the swastika for his Nazi Party, it was a perfectly respectable symbol dating from ancient times that was often used to decorate mosaics, tiles, pottery, and other items. This photo pre-dates the Nazis.)