On Friday, July 19 we are hosting a temperance themed party at
Of course temperance advocates had their work cut out for them as alcohol was such an integral part of American life. With coffee, tea, milk and water considered unacceptable beverages, the only other alternative was alcohol. There was the eye opener of rum or whiskey in morning before a glass of beer or cider at breakfast. Offices, shops and factories often closed at 11 am and 4 pm for a quick nip or two. Wine at dinner was followed by night caps to avoid night chills. There were other opportunities throughout the day for a drink or two – social calls, business transactions, birthdays, christenings, graduations, marriages, funerals, elections, court sessions and the list goes on . For every affliction from teething to aches and pains of old age alcohol was prescribed in one form or another (particularly brandy, whiskey and fruit based wines).
In the 1820s and 1830s growing concerns for occupational safety, public safety and personal health led to the development of temperance societies like American Temperance Society, Washington Temperance Society and Sons of Temperance. The societies held conventions, encouraged men to sign pledge cards, circulated petitions, and held lectures. By 1833 there were over 5,000 temperance societies in the
. Between 1851 and
1855 prohibition laws were even passed in 11 states and 2 territories. Temperance even became part of pop
culture. Temperance songs included The
Lips that Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine, Girls, Wait for a Temperance Man and Willie Has Signed the Pledge . Beginning in the 1840s temperance tales (novels,
short stories, plays and illustrated materials that warned of the dire medical,
social and moral consequences of alcohol) became best sellers. United States
By the 1850s the temperance movement had lost momentum. The nation’s attention was focused on the approaching of Civil War. European medical reports stated that alcohol was dangerous in excess but alright in moderation. Prohibition legislation was either repealed, modified or simply unforced. During the mid-1870s the movement would gain momentum again. But instead of moderation and personal choice, supporters would advocate for legislative bans on all alcohol for everyone.
For more information on the history of alcohol in the United States and the temperance movement, see The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition by WJ Rorabaugh and Drinking in America: A History by Mark Edward Lender and James Kirby Martin.