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History of Anti-Alcohol Movements in the U.S.

by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.

Organizations opposed to alcohol consumption arose in the US began before the Civil War (1861-1865). They began by calling for voluntary abstinence but with the passage of time began to insist that no one be permitted to consume any alcohol by force of law. However, the Civil War diverted attention to more pressing matters and interest in the movement largely died.

Following the War, the movement for prohibition reemerged and began growing. A growing women’s movement focusing on protection of the family, along with the strong support of many Protestant churches, propelled the movement forward beginning in the 1880s.

After that time a number of states adopted state-wide prohibition within their borders. However, it was World War I that made possible the passage of national Prohibition. The strong anti-German prejudice made brewers (who were generally of German origin) popular targets of hostility, the argument that alcohol beverage production diverted grain needed for the war effort, the lack of organization on the part of those who didn‘t support prohibition (the “wets“), the effective organization of prohibitionists (the drys), the strong support of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), political intimidation, and the effects of decades of temperance propaganda made possible the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment establishing national Prohibition. National Prohibition of Alcohol in the US describes this subject in more detail.

National Prohibition not only failed to prevent the consumption of alcohol, but led to the extensive production of dangerous unregulated and untaxed alcohol, the development of organized crime, increased violence, and massive political corruption. Although Prohibition was repealed in 1933, there are still hundreds of dry counties across the United States today. Amazingly, some people today insist that Prohibition was a success!

Because Prohibition is now recognized by most people as having been a disastrous failure and currently lacks strong political support, modern prohibitionists are using a different approach to achieve their goal.

Their tactic is to establish cultural rather than strictly legal prohibition by making alcohol beverages less socially acceptable and marginalizing those who drink, no matter how moderately. Like the anti-alcohol activists who preceded them, the neo-prohibitionists of today (often called reduction-of-consumptionists, neo-drys, or neo-Victorians) don’t distinguish between the use and the abuse of alcohol. Both should be reduced.

Neo-prohibitionists tend to believe that:

  • The substance of alcohol is, in and of itself, the cause of all drinking problems.
  • The availability of alcohol causes people to drink.
  • The amount of alcohol consumed (rather than the speed with which it is consumed, the purpose for which it is consumed, the social environment in which it is consumed, etc.) determines the extent of drinking problems.
  • Alcohol education should focus on the problems that excessive alcohol consumption can cause and should promote abstinence.

These beliefs lead neo-prohibitionists to call for such measures as:

  • Increasing taxes on alcohol beverages
  • Limiting or reducing the number of sales outlets
  • Limiting the alcohol content of drinks
  • Prohibiting or censoring alcohol advertising
  • Requiring warning messages with all alcohol advertisements
  • Expanding the warning labels on all alcohol beverage containers
  • Expanding the display of warning signs where alcohol is sold
  • Limiting the days or hours during which alcohol beverages can be sold
  • Increasing server liability for any problems that occur after alcohol consumption
  • Limiting the sale of alcohol beverages to people of specific ages
  • Decreasing the legal blood alcohol content level for driving vehicles or other activities
  • Eliminating the tax deductibility of alcohol beverages as a business expense.

Temperance Groups and Leaders

Some of the many anti-alcohol groups and leaders of the past and present are identified here alphabetically.

American Council on Alcohol Problems The American Council on Alcohol Problems is a federation of state affiliates promoting the reduction of consumption agenda. The Council was known as the Anti-Saloon League from 1893 until 1948, the Temperance League until 1950, the national Temperance League until 1964, and now as the American Council on Alcohol Problems. It partners with George Hacker’s Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other temperance groups

American Council on Alcohol Problems. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Asbury, Herbert. The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 (Originally published 1950).
Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1973.
Krout, John A. The Origins of Prohibition. New York: Knopf, 1925.

Anti-Saloon League The Anti-Saloon League was a non-partisan organization established in 1893 that focused on the single issue of prohibition. The League had branches across the United States to work with churches in marshalling resources for the prohibition fight.

From 1948 until 1950 it was known as the Temperance League, from 1950 to 1964 it was called the National Temperance League; from then it has been known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems. The current name disguises its prohibitionist agenda.

The best single source of information about the Anti-Saloon League is Peter H. Odegard, Pressure Politics: Story of the Anti-Saloon League. New York: Columbia University Press, 1928, reprinted 1966); the League’s archives and other materials are now located at the Anti-Saloon home page (wpl.lib.oh.us/AntiSaloon/)

Anti-Saloon League of America. Anti-Saloon League of America Yearbook. Westerville OH: American Issue Press, 1920
Cherrington, Ernest. History of the Anti-Saloon League. Westerville, OH: American Issue Publishing Co., 1913.
Dohn, Norman Harding. The History of the Anti-Saloon League. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, 1976.
Ewin, James Lithgow. The Birth of the Anti-Saloon League. Washington, D.C., 1913.
Kerr, K. Austin. Organized for Prohibition: A New History of the Anti-Saloon League. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.
Lien, Jerry.The Speechmaking of the Anti-Saloon League. University of Southern California, 1968.

Califano, Joseph A. Joseph Califano says he felt that he was on a genuine religious mission by creating the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), explaining that “for me, establishing and building CASA and committing myself to this battle against substance abuse was doing the Lord’s work.” For Joe Califano, virtually any alcohol consumption is alcohol abuse. One observer reports that " Califano is essentially a reincarnation of the old temperance warriors."

With messianic zeal Joe Califano and his Center have become well known for presenting highly questionable advocacy “research.” To learn more about Mr. Califano visit Joe Califano and His Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse(CASA).

Cannon, Jr. , Bishop James After the death of powerful Anti-Saloon League leader Wayne Wheeler in 1927, Bishop James Cannon, Jr., chairman of the Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals, emerged as the most powerful leader of the temperance movement in the United States. Journalist H. L. Mencken said of Cannon that "Congress was his troop of Boy Scouts and Presidents trembled whenever his name was mentioned."

However Bishop Cannon's short-lived power came to an end when he was forced to defend himself before a Senate committee against charges of financial irregularities as a lobbyist, before the General Conference of the Methodist Church on charges of immoral conduct, and before a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to violate the Federal Corrupt Practices Act.

Cannon's highly profitable stock speculations on margin with a corrupt securities firm, his hoarding of flour during World War I that was sold at a great profit, and his sexual affair with his secretary long before his wife's death all destroyed the reputation and influence of this once powerful dry leader. The expose was but one of the many factors contributing to the repeal of prohibition.

Hohner, Robert A. Prohibition and Politics: The Life of Bishop James Cannon, Jr. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.
Kyvig, David. Repealing National Prohibition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1979.
Patterson, Michael S. The fall of a bishop: James Cannon, Jr., versus Carter Glass, 1909-1934. Journal of Southern History, 1973 (November), 39, 493-518.

Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) CASA has a long record of producing highly suspect papers about alcohol that are later discredited. For example, a researcher "examined some of the references in (a) CASA paper and found the conclusions in the articles to be shockingly different from the way CASA depicted them." Report after report by CASA has been exposed as lacking credibility, leading The Washington Times to observe that CASA has a "proven disdain for the facts." Understandably, scholars have a lot of negative things to say about the Center on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, "some of it unprintable" observed Christopher Shea in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

More information about the CASA is found at The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse: A Center for Alcohol Statistics Abuse?

Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) was up and funded by the Pew trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The stated mission of CAMY is to monitor "the marketing practices of the alcohol industry to focus attention and action on industry practices that jeopardize the health and safety of America's youth." It explains that "reducing high rates of underage alcohol consumption and the suffering caused by alcohol-related injuries and death among young people" requires limiting the appeal of alcohol beverages to young people and their access to them." It seeks to create "public outrage" against alcohol advertising to achieve its objective.

CAMY begins with an assumption which it then sets out to prove. In doing so it is clearly an activist group rather than an objective scientific organization seeking to learn the truth. Judging from CAMY's statements and activities to date, it's doubtful if the Center would ever to find any alcohol advertising or any marketing practice to be acceptable. This may be an example of the Burger King phenomenon: Pew and Johnson pay for the research and "have it their way."

Learn more about CAMY at Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth : Its Objectives and Methods.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is not a science center but, by its own admission, a public advocacy action center. CSPI demonstrates a continuing pattern of presenting alarming but erroneous and misleading statistics to promote its agenda. A major goal of CSPI is reducing the alcohol consumption of adults, even among moderate drinkers. A full-time director, George Hacker, and his staff work toward this goal through the group’s Alcohol Policies Project.

Both CSPI and its Alcohol Policies Project are dedicated to "preventing alcohol" rather than "preventing the abuse of alcohol." They promote prohibitionist and neo-prohibitionist goals rather than public health goals. That's all the difference in the world.

To learn more about the activities of the CSPI visit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) is a massively-funded federal agency that aggressively promotes the reduction-of-consumption or neo-prohibition approach to reduce alcohol problems: "Less alcohol is always still too much alcohol."

Although it is a federal agency supported by taxpayers, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention has long been guilty of illegally misappropriating taxpayer money for lobbying, of censoring citizens with whom it disagrees, of self-servingly distorting statistics, and of using its power to abuse innocent Americans.

Some observers think the agency should be abolished. Learn more about the agency at Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems The Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems vigorously promotes a temperance agenda and should more accurately be called the Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol. It is a coalition of temperance groups co-chaired by George Hacker of the Alcohol Policies Project and Stacia Murphy of the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD).

Members of the Coalition include the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church), the American Council on Alcohol Problems (earlier called the Anti-Saloon League), the Temperance League of Kentucky, the General Board of Global Ministries, and the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol Problems.

The Coalition’s Steering Committee meets weekly in Washington to set its agenda and plan it’s political strategy. For more about the Coalition’s organizer and leader visit George Hacker of CSPI.

Cogswell, Dr. Henry D. Henry Cogswell believed that if people had access to cool drinking water they wouldn't consume alcoholic beverages. It was his dream to construct one drinking fountain for every 100 saloons across the United States and many were built. These drinking fountains were elaborate structures built of granite that Cogswell designed himself. Cogswell's fountains can be found in Washington, D.C., New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, San Francisco and other cities. The concept of providing drinking fountains as alternatives to saloons was later implemented by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

The fountains were actually dwarfed by the large structures built in connection with them. Each was different but they were usually topped by a large statue of Cogswell holding a Bible in one hand a glass (presumably of water) in the other.

They were apparently not always well-received by the communities where they were built. One of the fountains in San Francisco was torn down by "a lynch party of self-professed art lovers" and one in Rockville, Connecticut was thrown into a lake. One of the fountains in Washington, DC, has been called "the city's ugliest statue" Cogwell’s well-intentioned structures reportedly spurred a movement across the country for cities to screen such gifts.

Ciparelli, Jessica. Back where he belongs: Dr. Henry Cogswell statue once again graces Rockville’s Central Park. RockvilleCT.com (http://www.rockvillect.com/Cogswell/dedication.htm)
Cohn, Abby, They‘re 6 feet under, but pioneers draw crowds to Oakland, San Francisco Chronicle, January 5, 2001.
Kitsock, Greg. All’s well that ends with a drink to Cogswell. Washington City Paper, March 6, 1992.

Dodge, Earl Longtime leader of the Prohibition Party, Earl F. Dodge was its candidate for vice-president of the U.S. in 1976 and 1980. He then became its candidate for presidency in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004.

Dodge has posted a Prohibition Party website which also promotes sales from “Havel’s House of History.” To what extent Dodge presumably benefits from this arrangement is not known. He has reportedly avoided paying Social Security taxes on his income from the Prohibition Party by routing it through the National Prohibition Foundation, which he controls.

Dodge received substantial Prohibition Party funds to build an addition onto his house for use as the Prohibition Party office. Although the office was moved into his residence, the only “addition” the building inspector could find was a portable tool shed in Dodge’s back yard.

“Dodge has amassed a notable personal hoard of political Americana, with an emphasis on Prohibition Party material – the “Roger Storms Collection,” named in honor of late Party historian Roger C. Storms. Money to develop this was provided by the Prohibition Trust Fund Association, until recently; in 2004, the Trust Fund withdrew its support, for lack of a satisfactory accounting from Dodge.

The American Political Items Collectors refused to renew Dodge’s membership sometime before 1995, after complaints by several members that Dodge had visited their homes, distracted them, and pocketed things he liked. He is no longer allowed into display areas at APIC meetings (although the meetings are open to the public).”

The party’s Treasurer of ten years, Earl Higgerson, resigned after Dodge refused to let him see the party‘s account books, see the list of donors, sign a check card at the bank, or learn what actions Dodge may have taken in his name as Treasurer. When Higgerson discovered that Dodge controlled another financial operation in addition to the party (the National Prohibition Foundation) he asked about it but Dodge told him that it was “none of your business.” Dodge’s daughter is now Treasurer.

Evidence that Dodge badly mismanaged the Partisan Prohibition Historical Society and the National Prohibition Foundation led “hostile directors” to take over the Society in 1997 and the Foundation in 2001.

Earl F. Dodge was unseated as Chairman of the Party at a public meeting called by a majority of the members of the Prohibition National Committee after he had held an invitation-only meeting at his home and then claiming that it was the lawful nominating convention of the Prohibition Party. It then ran as its presidential candidate Gene Amondson. However, Dodge also ran, claiming that he was the legal and rightful candidate.

Hedges, James. Architect of oblivion: Earl Farwell Dodge. Prohibitionists website. (http://www.prohibitionists.org/History/Bios/dodge/body_dodge.html)
Warner, Joel. Want real change? Vote Prohibition: Despite internal struggles and the 21st Amendment, Mr. Prohibition and the dry party carry on. Boulder Weekly (http://www.boulderweekly.com/archive/102804/newsspin.html)

Hacker, George Lawyer George A. Hacker has headed the temperance-oriented Alcohol Policies Project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) for three decades. He is Co-Chair of the Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems, whose members include the American Council on Alcohol Problems (the current name of the Anti-Saloon League) and many other prohibition and temperance activist groups.

As part of his role as an anti-alcohol activist leader, George Hacker has authored and coauthored numerous publications to promote neo-prohibitionism. Hacker's efforts have not gone unnoticed. For example, he is described as "an outspoken anti-alcohol activist by journalist James Thalman in Utah’s Desert News and as "the undisputed general" of the forces attacking alcohol by Michael Massing in the New York Times.

To learn about his modus operandi, visit George Hacker of CSPI.

Hunt, Mary Mary Hanchet Hunt, who was born in 1830, became one of the most powerful women in the nation promoting prohibition. As Superintendent of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction she worked at the grass roots level to ensure passage of laws mandating that textbooks teach every school child a curriculum promoting complete abstinence for everyone and mandatory prohibition. She acquired the power to veto any textbook of which she did not approve. And she didn’t approve of any book that stated the fact that physicians sometimes prescribed alcohol or any book that even implied that drinking in moderation did not inevitably lead to serious alcohol abuse. That would send a “mixed message” inconsistent with the WCTU’s goal of prohibition.

It is indisputable that "by the time of her death in 1906, Mary Hunt had shaken and changed the world of education" with her campaign for coercive temperance education or "institutionalized prohibitionist propaganda." In 1901-1902, 22 million school children were exposed to anti-alcohol “education." The WCTU was perhaps the most influential lobby ever to shape what was taught in public schools. Though it was a voluntary association, it acquired quasi-public power as a censor of textbooks, a trainer of teachers, and arbiter of morality."

Mrs. Hunt’s integrity and morality is another matter. In order to deal with the accusation that she profited from reform, she signed over to charity the royalties due her on the thousands of physiology textbooks sold annually. Her never-publicized charity was the Scientific Temperance Association, a group composed of Hunt, her pastor, and a few friends. The association used its funds to support the operations of the national headquarters of the WCTU's Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction, a large house in Boston that was also Hunt's residence. For Mary Hunt, charity both began and stayed at home.

Elson, Ruth M. in Guardians of Tradition: American Schoolbooks of the Nineteenth Century. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1964.
Flanders, Jessie K. Legislative Control of the Elementary Curriculum. New York: Teachers College, 1925.
Hanson, David J. Alcohol Education: What We Must Do. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996.
Hunt, Mary H. A History of the First Decade of the Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction in Schools and Colleges. Boston, MA: Washington Press, 1892.
Hunt, Mary H. An Epoch of the Nineteenth Century: An Outline of the Work for Scientific Temperance Education in the Public Schools of the United States. Boston, MA: Foster, 1897.
Mezvinsky, Norton. Scientific temperance instruction in the schools. History of Education Quarterly, 1961, 7, 48-56.
Ohles, John F. The imprimatur of Mary H. H. Hunt. Journal of School Health, WS, 1978, 48, 477-478.
Ormond, Chart. Temperance Education in American Public Schools. Westerville, OH: American Issue Press, 1929
Sheehan, Nancy M. The WCTU and education: Canadian-American illustrations. Journal of the Midwest History of Education Society, 1981, P, 115-133.
Sheehan, Nancy M. National pressure groups and provincial curriculum policy: Temperance in Nova Scotia schools 1880-1930. Canadian Journal of Education, 1984b, 9, 73-88.
Tyack, David, B., and James, Thomas. Moral majorities and the school curriculum: Historical perspectives on the legalization of virtue. Teachers College Record, 1985, 86, 513-537.
Zimmerman, Jonathan. "The Queen of the Lobby": Mary Hunt, scientific temperance, and the dilemma of democratic education in America, 1879-1906. History of Education Quarterly, 1992, 32, 1-30.

Jacobson, Michael Michael Jacobson established the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in 1971, along with two lawyers from one of Ralph Nader's activist groups. Both lawyers soon dropped out so now, as Executive Director, Mr. Jacobson now operates his own activist group.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest isn't a science organization but a special interest advocacy group for public policy. Although it assumes the mantle of science in order to obtain legitimacy for its activities and programs, most of the CSPI's "science" hardly reaches the level of a high school science project. And high school students don't have a political agenda for which they distort the evidence or misrepresent the facts as Michael Jacobson and his Center for Science in the Public Interest apparently do.

Michael Jacobson calls for heavy taxes on foods of which he disapproves, numerous prohibitions, lawsuits against food producers, beverage producers, and convenience restaurants. He takes pride in being called the head of the food and beverage police.

For more on Michael Jacobson and his operation, visit Michael Jacobson and His Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Johnson, William E. William E. Johnson, better known as “Pussyfoot Johnson,” was a leader of the Anti-Saloon League. He acquired his nickname for his stealth in enforcing prohibition laws for the Indian Service in Oklahoma.

Early in his career he developed some of the tactics that would later be widely used in the Anti-Saloon League. For example, he wrote to wet leaders falsely claiming to be a brewer and asked them for advice on how to defeat temperance activists. He then published the letters he received to embarrass and discredit his opposition.

After starting and publishing his own temperance newspaper, he joined the Anti-Saloon League and rose to become managing editor of the league’s publishing house, The American Issue Publishing Company. He was managing editor of the Standard Encyclopedia of the Liquor Problem, on which he worked closely with Wayne Wheeler. Johnson also traveled around the world promoting temperance on behalf of the World League Against Alcoholism.

A jury later found William Johnson guilty of forging Anti-Saloon League records to conceal his embezzlement of funds.

Aaron, Paul, and Musto, David. Temperance and Prohibition in America: An Historical Overview. In: Moore, Mark H. , and Gerstein, Dean R. (eds.) Alcohol and Public Policy: Beyond the Shadow of Prohibition. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1981. Pp. 127-180.
Blocker, Jack S. American Temperance Movements: Cycles of Reform. Boston: Twayne, 1989.
Odegard, Peter H. Pressure Politics: The Story of the Anti-Saloon League. NY: Columbia University Press, 1928.
Westerville (Ohio) Public Library. Leaders: William E. Johnson. Westerville Public Library website.

Ku Klux Klan (KKK) One of the major supporters of Prohibition was the “second KKK.” often called the KKK of the 1920s. The Klan was revived specifically to defend Prohibition, the enforcement of which was a cornerstone of its “reform” agenda. A historian has observed that “support for Prohibition represented the single most important bond between Klansmen throughout the nation.” Another scholar wrote that “enforcement of Prohibition, in fact, was a central, and perhaps the strongest, goal of the Ku Klux Klan.”

For more about the anti-alcohol nature of the KKK visit The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), Alcohol, & Prohibition.

Lincoln-Lee Legion The Lincoln-Lee Legion was established by Anti-Saloon League-founder Howard Hyde Russell in 1903 to promote the signing of abstinence pledges by children. The organization was originally called the Lincoln League. However, in 1912 it was renamed the Lincoln-Lee League in order to make it more appealing to southern children and their parents.

The pledge called for a lifetime commitment to abstain from alcoholic beverages By 1925, over five million children had signed the total abstinence pledge cards. The pledge concept is currently used by the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, whose pledge numbers dwarf those of the Lincoln-Lee Legion.

Engs, Ruth C. (ed) The Progressive Era’s Health Reform Movements. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.
Odegard, Peter H. Pressure Politics: The Story of the Anti-Saloon League. NY: Columbia University Press, 1928.

Marin Institute The Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems is a massively endowed organization that aggressively promotes reduction of consumption alcohol policies, equates alcohol with illegal drugs, and repeatedly reports as being accurate the often deceptive and misleading “research” and statistics generated by other anti-alcohol activist groups. The Marin Institute has been recognized for its anti-alcohol activities by the Prohibition Party.

More about the organization can be found at The Marin Institute: An Anti-Alcohol Activist Organization and Marin Institute Recognized.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created in 1980 to reduce drunk driving and the death and injury that it can cause. Over time, temperance forces have gained control of MADD and it has largely become anti-alcohol rather than anti-drunk driving. Candy Lightner, the founder and first President of MADD says “it has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned.” She explains “I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.” More about MADD is located at:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving: A Crash Course in MADD
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Resources
MADD IS Anti-Alcohol

Nation, Carrie Carrie Nation was one of the most colorful members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Born in 1846, Carry Amelia Moore Nation (she adopted the name Carry A. Nation mainly for its value as a slogan and had it registered as a trademark) is best remembered for using a hatchet to smash and destroy bars and their contents (sometimes called “hatchetation“). Between 1900 and 1910, she was arrested 30 times for her destructive invasions of bars. She self-righteously believed she was doing God’s work and was highly intolerant of those who opposed her or her actions. She derisively labeled them "rum-soaked, whiskey-swilled, saturn-faced rummies."

Carrie Nation exploited her notoriety by appearing as a vaudeville entertainer, charging to lecture, publishing newsletters, selling photos of herself, and marketing souvenir hatchets. She died in 1911.

Carrie Amelia Nation. Kansas State Historical Society
Carry A. Nation: The famous and Original Bar Room Smasher. Kansas State Historical Society (Online Exhibit) (http://www.kshs.org/exhibits/carry/carry1.htm+%22Carrie+Nation%22&hl=en)
Carrie Nation. Wickipedia.
Carrie Nation (America 1900) pbs.org

Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AMA) The American Medical Association (AMA) first passed a resolution supporting abstinence from alcohol even before National Prohibition was imposed in 1920 and continues to support it to this day.

Although the moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with better health and greater longevity than either abstinence or the abuse of alcohol, the AMA remains a temperance organization. This may be because so many physicians see the consequences of alcohol abuse, although the vast majority of people drink in moderation that's beneficial to their good health.

For whatever reason, the AMA promotes a temperance agenda. It describes its Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse as "a national program office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.” Not only did the temperance-oriented Robert Wood Johnson Foundation establish the AMA's office with an initial $5 million dollar grant but also it has poured many more millions of dollars into funding its activities.

For more about the Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs and other AMA temperance activities, visit American Medical Association: Abstinence Motivated Agenda.

Prohibition Party The Prohibition Party was created in 1867 to advocate temperance and legislation prohibiting the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. It was an important force in US politics during the late 1800s and the early decades of the 20th century. The Prohibition Party is the oldest “third party” in the US and has nominated a candidate for president of the US in every election since 1872.

Colvin, David L. Prohibition in the United States: A History of the Prohibition Party and of the Prohibition Movement. NY: George H. Doran Co., 1926.
Storms, Roger C. Partisan Prophets: A History of the Prohibition Party, 1854-1972. Denver, CO: National Prohibition Foundation, 1972.
Wheeler, E.J. Prohibition: the Principle, the Policy, and the Party. NY: Funk & Wagnall’s, 1889.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation attempts to stigmatize alcohol, de-legitimize drinking, and marginalize drinkers. It spent over a quarter of a billion dollars ($265,000,00.00) in just four years alone further developing and funding a nation-wide network of anti-alcohol organizations, centers, activist leaders, and opinion writers to achieve its long-term goal.

An in-depth report, Behind the Neo-Prohibition Campaign: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, demonstrates that "nearly every study disparaging adult beverages in the mass media, every legislative push to limit alcohol marketing or increase taxes, and every supposedly 'grassroots' anti-alcohol organization" is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

More information on the RWJF is found at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Financier of Temperance.

Scientific Temperance Federation The Scientific Temperance Federation was founded in 1906 upon the death of Mary Hunt, head of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction.

Legal arrangements that Mrs. Hunt had made to conceal the income from her “voluntary” work clouded ownership of her estate. This led to the creation of the Scientific Temperance Foundation. Mrs. Hunt’s personal secretary headed the new organization. Because of the substantial fortune she had amassed in promoting compulsory temperance education, and the tens of millions of textbooks this required, the Scientific Temperance Federation was able to engage in a wide variety of activities to promote the temperance movement and prohibition. A major nation-wide project was an innovative “Education on Wheels” project that took temperance education directly to people at their homes and farms.

Hanson, David J. Alcohol Education. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996.
Scientific Temperance Federation. Westerville (Ohio) Public Library. Papers of the Anti-Saloon League.

Sewall, Dr. Thomas Dr. Sewall’s major contribution to the temperance movement was his graphic eight drawings of "alcohol diseased stomachs." Colored lithographs of these were made and widely distributed to promote teetotalism and the temperance movement.

As a young physician in Massachusetts, Dr. Sewall was arrested, charged, and found guilty of multiple counts of the crime of grave robbing in 1819. Forced to leave the state, he moved to the nation's capital to re-establish his career. In 1825 he was a founding faculty member of the medical department at Columbian College, where he became professor of anatomy.

Shultz, Suzanne M. Body Snatching: The Robbing of Graves for the Education of Physicians in Early Nineteenth Century American History. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1992.

Shuler, Rev. Robert P. The Prohibition Party candidate who received the highest vote in any election in U.S. history was Rev. Robert P. Shuler. In the 1932 California election for the US Senate he received 560,088 votes (25.8%) and carried Orange and Riverside counties. Following his defeat, Shuler “placed an awful curse” on Southern California and some people attributed a later earthquake in that region to his curse.

“Fightin” Bop Shuler, owned radio station KGEF, which existed from 1926 to 1932. He said that KGEF stood for Keep God Forever First. The temperance movement leader lost the license for his station after his controversial broadcasts attacking Catholics, Jews, African Americans, and the Hollywood elite for their consumption of alcoholic beverages and their alleged dishonesty, corruption, and immorality. However, there is no evidence that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, which also strongly supported Prohibition.

Shuler was pastor of the Trinity Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California. He was unrelated to the pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.

Oldradio. Oldradio’s Radio/TV Station Call Letter Origins. Oldradio website (http://nelson.oldradio.com/origins.html)
Prohibition Party. Outline of History (of the Prohibition Party). Prohibition Party website. (http://www.prohibitionists.org/History/body_history.htm)
The science and myths of predicting earthquakes. The Supernatural World website (http://www.thesupernaturalworld.co.uk/index.php?act=main&code=01&type=00&topic_id=1864)

Sunday, Billy William Ashley "Billy" Sunday was noted first as a professional baseball player, and then more famous evangelist. Sunday spent time as an assistant to another evangelist before embarking solo in 1896. He was ordained as a preacher in the Presbyterian church in 1903. Sunday was one of the first prominent preachers to make use of the then-new medium of radio.

Billy Sunday was known for his "fire-and-brimstone" preaching to evangelism that won many converts. This in turn led to his accumulating a small fortune through contributions at his sermons. He died a wealthy man in 1935 at the depth of the Depression when about one-third of the population was unemployed. He left a large estate as well as trust funds for his children

Sunday is noted as being one of the major promoters of temperance. One of his most famous sermons was "Booze, Or, Get on the Water Wagon," which convinced many people to give up drinking. As the tide of public opinion turned, he continued to strongly support Prohibition, and after its repeal in 1933, Sunday called for its reintroduction. He said “ I am the sworn, eternal and uncompromising enemy of the liquor traffic. I have been, and will go on, fighting that damnable, dirty, rotten business with all the power at my command.” Sunday preached that “whiskey and beer are all right in their place, but their place is in hell.”

Allen, Robert. Billy Sunday: Home Run to Heaven. Mott Media: Milford, MI. 1985.
Billy Sunday Online (http://www.billysunday.org/)
Ellis, William T. Billy Sunday: His Life and Message. Philadelphia, PA: John C. Winston Co., 1914.

Volstead, Andrew John Andrew Volstead is known as “The Father of Prohibition” because he authored the National Prohibition Act, better known as the Volstead Act, which provided the legal mechanism to enforce the 18the Amendment to the US Constitution. That amendment prohibited "the manufacture, sale, or distribution of intoxicating liquors." The Volstead Act defined intoxicating liquors as beverages containing more than one-half of one percent alcohol and it gave federal authorities the power to prosecute violations.

Volstead was born in 1860 and elected to the first of his ten terms as a member of the US House of Representatives from his native state of Minnesota. Following the loss of his congressional seat in 1922 shortly after Prohibition was imposed, Volstead was hired as legal adviser to the chief of the National Prohibition Enforcement Bureau. Upon Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Volstead returned to Minnesota where he practiced law and died in 1947.

Volstead, Andrew John, (1860-1947) bioguide.congress.gov/
Andrew Volstead. spartacus.schoolnet.uk
Andrew Volstead. lawzone.com
The man behind the act (Andrew J. Volstead). American History, 2001, 35(6), 50.

Wheeler, Wayne Wayne Wheeler, born in 1869, graduated from law school and within a few years became the attorney and General Counsel for the National Anti-Saloon League and its head lobbyist. He became widely known as the "dry boss" because of his enormous influence and power.

Under Wheeler's brilliant leadership, the League focused entirely on the goal of achieving Prohibition. It organized at the grass-roots level and worked extensively through churches. It supported or opposed candidates entirely based on their position regarding prohibition and nothing else. It completely disregard their party affiliation or position on other issues. Unlike other temperance groups, the Anti-Saloon League worked with the two major parties rather than backing the smaller Prohibition Party. Wheeler developed what is now known as pressure politics, which is sometimes also called Wheelerism.

Wheeler, was the de facto leader of the Anti-Saloon League and he wielded awesome power, as described by one historian:

Wayne B. Wheeler controlled six congresses, dictated to two presidents of the United States, directed legislation in most of the States of the Union, picked the candidates for the more important elective and federal offices, held the balance of power in both Republican and Democratic parties, distributed more patronage than any dozen other men, supervised a federal bureau from outside without official authority, and was recognized by friend and foe alike as the most masterful and powerful single individual in the United States.

By 1926 Wheeler was being criticized by some members of Congress who were questioning the League’s spending in some congressional races. Wheeler retired shortly thereafter and died in 1927.

Childs, Randolph W. Making Repeal Work. Philadelphia, PA: Pennsylvania Alcoholic Beverage Study, Inc., 1947.
Hanson, David J. National Prohibition of Alcohol in the US
Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.
Hogan, Charles Marshall. Wayne Wheeler: Single Issue Exponent. Cincinnati, OH: University of Cincinnati, 1986;
Steuart, Justin. Wayne Wheeler, Dry Boss: An Uncensored Biography of Wayne B. Wheeler. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1928.

Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was founded in 1874 and claims to be the oldest voluntary, non-sectarian women’s organization in continuous existence in the world. WCTU membership peaked at about 200,000 members in the late 19th century. Membership still requires signing a pledge of abstinence and paying dues. Current membership is reported at 8,000 members. The WCTU remains active in promoting its temperance agenda and partners with such temperance activist groups as the Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems.

Blocker, Jr., Jack S. Retreat from Reform. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976.
Blocker, Jr., Jack S. "Give to the Winds thy Fear": The Women's Temperance Crusade, 1873-1874. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985.
Blocker, Jr., Jack S. American Temperance Movements: Cycles of Reform. Boston, MA: Twayne,1989.
Bordin, Ruth. Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873-1900. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1981.
Erickson, Judith B. Making King Alcohol tremble. The juvenile work of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, 1874-1900. Journal of Drug Education, 1988, 18, 333-352.
Epstein, Barbara Leslie. The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1981.
Gordon, Elizabeth Putnam. Women Torch-Bearers: The Story of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Evanston, IL: National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1924.
Pauly, Philip, J. The struggle for ignorance about alcohol: American physiologists, Wilbur Olin Atwater, and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1990, 64, 366-392.


The activists who promoted National Prohibition (1920-1933) acted in a time when there was little scientific knowledge about the effects of alcohol and they had strange ideas. Consider these ridiculous assertions:

  • Alcohol is the dirtiest drug we have. It permeates and damages all tissue. No other drug can cause the same degree of harm that it does.
  • Alcohol is harmful to the body (no level of consumption indicated).
  • Alcohol is a poison, and drinking it might lead to death.
  • Alcohol is toxic (no level of consumption indicated).
  • The effects of alcohol on men (no level of consumption indicated) are that hormone levels change, causing lower sex drive and enlarged breasts.
  • Alcohol is a gateway drug leading people into illicit drug use.
  • Alcohol (no level of consumption indicated) can cause deterioration of the heart muscle.

Astonishingly, all these statements, which are very misleading at best, were not made by prohibitionists of old but by officials representing governmental agencies of today. Significantly, the comments are not based on scientific evidence but instead seem to reflect a neo-prohibitionist effort to stigmatize alcohol.

The effort to stigmatize alcohol includes promoting the prohibitionist belief that there is no difference between moderate drinking and alcohol abuse--the two are portrayed as one and the same. This leads the U.S. Department of Education, for example, to direct schools and colleges to reject educational programs which promote responsible drinking among adults and instead favor a simplistic call for total abstinence.

Part of this oversimplified approach is the belief that alcohol is a dangerous gateway drug that causes users to begin using illegal drugs. The supposed "proof" provided is that most people who are involved with illicit drugs drank alcohol initially. Of course, most illicit drug users also drank milk, ate candy bars, and drank cola previously. But don't annoy the neo-prohibitionists with evidence or logic.

Government agencies and activist groups also systemically attempt to equate legal alcohol consumption with illegal drug use. For example, federal guidelines direct agencies to substitute "alcohol and drug use" with "alcohol and other drug use," to replace "substance abuse" with "alcohol and other drug abuse," and to avoid use of the term "responsible drinking" altogether.

Alcohol is also frequently associated with crack cocaine and other illegal drugs by discussing them in the same paragraph. Often the effort is more blatant. A poster picturing a wine cooler warns "Don't be fooled. This is a drug."

Technically, this assertion is correct. Any substance --salt, vitamins, water, food, etc.-- that alters the functioning of the body is a drug. But the word "drug" has negative connotations and the attempt is clearly to stigmatize a legal product that is used pleasurably in moderation by most American adults.

In stigmatizing alcohol as a "drug," however, neo-prohibitionists may be inadvertently trivializing the use of illegal drugs and thereby encourage their use. Or, especially among youngsters, these zealots may be creating the false impression that parents who use alcohol in moderation are drug abusers whose good example should be rejected by their children. Thus, this misguided effort to equate alcohol with illicit drugs is likely to be counterproductive.

Instead of stigmatizing alcohol and trying either to scare or force people into abstinence, we need to recognize that it is not alcohol itself but rather the misuse of alcohol that is the problem. The vast majority of American adults do in fact use alcohol in moderation to enhance the quality of their lives with no ill effects. The neo-prohibitionist attack on alcohol is proving to be not only deceptive and ineffective, but dangerously counterproductive in the effort to teach the responsible use of alcohol.

It’s obvious that temperance activists of today are remarkably similar to those of the past in both their beliefs and methods.


Resources on Temperance and Prohibition

Especially interesting and useful are:

Asbury, Herbert. The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 (Originally published 1950).

Cashman, Sean D. Prohibition: The Lie of the Land. New York: Free Press, 1981.

Furnas, J. C. The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum. New York: G. P. Punam's Sons, 1965.

Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1973.

Krout, John A. The Origins of Prohibition. New York: Knopf, 1925.

Sinclair, Andrew. Prohibition: The Era of Excess. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., 1962.

Also useful but generally more specialized are:

Aaron, Paul, and Musto, David. Temperance and Prohibition in America: An Historical Overview. In: Moore, Mark H., and Gerstein, Dean R. (eds.) Alcohol and Public Policy: Beyond the Shadow of Prohibition. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1981. pp. 127-181.

Bader, Robert S. Prohibition in Kansas: A History. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1986.

Billings, John S. Physiological Aspects of the Liquor Problem: Investigations Made by and Under the Direction of John 0. Atwater, John S. Billings and Others. Sub- Committee of the Committee of Fifty to Investigate the Liquor Problem. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1903. (This is the report on the WCTU’s “Scientific Temperance Instruction”)

Cherrington, Ernest H. The Evolution of Prohibition in the United States of America. Westerville, OH: American Issue Press, 1920.

Clark, N. H. Deliver Us From Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition. New York: Norton, 1976.

Engs, Ruth C. Resurgence of a new "clean living" movement in the United States. Journal of School Health, 1991, 61, 155-159.

Feldman, Herman. Prohibition: Its Economic and Industrial Aspects. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1928.

Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture, and Control. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.

Heath, Dwight, B. The new temperance movement: Through the looking glass. Drugs and Society, 1989, 3, 143-168.

Hofstader, Richard. The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R.. New York: Vintage, 1965.

Isaac, Paul E. Prohibition and Politics: Turbulent Decades in Tennessee, 1885-1920. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1965.

Kyvig, David E. Repealing National Prohibition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Lee, Alfred M. Techniques of social reform: An analysis of the New Prohibition Drive. American Sociological Review, 1944, 9, 65-77. Reprinted as the New Prohibition Drive. In: McCarthy, Raymond G. (ed.) Drinking and Intoxication: Selected Readings in Social Attitudes and Controls. New Haven, CT: College and University Press, 1959. pp. 412-428.

Lender, Mark E., and Martin, James K. Drinking in America: A History. New York: The Free Press, 1982.

Levine, Harry. The birth of American alcohol control: Prohibition, the lawlessness. Contemporary Drug Problems, 1985, 12, 63-115.

McConnell, D. W. Temperance Movements. In: Seligman, Edwin R. A., and Johnson, Alvin (eds.) Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. New York, NY: The Macmillan Co., 1963.

Mendelson, Jack H., and Mello, Nancy K. Alcohol: Use and Abuse in America. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., 1985.

Merz, Charles. The Dry Decade. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1969. (Contains a new introduction by the author. Originally published in 1930.)

Odegard, Peter H. Pressure Politics: The Story of the Anti-Saloon League. New York: Columbia University Press, 1928.

Prendergast, Michael L. A History of Alcohol Problem Prevention Efforts in the United States. In: Holder, Harold D. (ed.) Control Issues on Alcohol Abuse Prevention: Strategies for States and Communities. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1987. pp. 25- 52.

Rorabaugh, William J. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Rorabaugh, William J. Alcohol in America. Magazine of History, 1991, 6, 17-19.

Rubin, Jay L. The Wet War: American Liquor Control, 1941-1945. In: Blocker, Jr., Jack S. (Ed.) Alcohol, Reform and Society: The Liquor Issue in Social Context. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979. pp. 235-258.

Schmidt, Laura A. “A battle not man's but God's": Origins of the American temperance crusade in the struggle for religious authority. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1995, 56, 110-121.

Thomton, Mark. The Economics of Prohibition. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 1991.

Tietsort, Francis J., (ed.) Temperance—or Prohibition? New York: American, 1929.

Timberlake, James H. Prohibition and the Progressive Movement, 1900-1920. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963.

Willebrandt, Mabel W. The Inside of Prohibition. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1929.

Additional Information

CAMY: Its Objectives and Methods

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Financier of Temperance

Mothers Against Drunk Driving: A Crash Course on MADD

The American Medical Association (AMA): Abstinence Motivated Agenda

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