You are here

Main Content

The Temperance Movement

The Temperance Movement, also called the Prohibition Movement, was a political and social movement in the United States during Progressive Era. Supporters of the Temperance Movement, mostly Protestant and known as "teetotalers," worked for many decades to end the sale of alcohol across the United States at the local, state and national level. Groups like the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and Anti-Saloon League argued alcohol was the root of numerous social problems plaguing the nation at the time, especially in rapidly expanding urban areas flush with new, predominantly Catholic, immigrant groups. These problems included unemployment, neglect of children, and domestic violence – a serious issue in an era when it was socially unacceptable for women to divorce or separate from their husbands, even if they were alcoholic and abusive.

Saloon owners, distillers, individual brewers, the United States Brewer's Association, and others worked against those in favor of a ban against alcohol, but they were ultimately unable to counter the political influence supporters of the temperance movement had built over several decades. In 1919, the 18th Amendment officially made the United States an alcohol-free nation, though it would ultimately be repealed in 1933 due to numerous unintended consequences (especially the growth of large criminal organizations in urban areas and widespread political and police corruption.)

Special Collections and Archives holds numerous pro- and anti-temperance materials dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries. These include materials like The Temperance Songster, a booklet of pro-temperance songs, a re-printed speech from the Grand Temperance Rally at Round Lake, The Political Prohibitionist handbook, illustrated stories like The Drunkard's Children that issued grave warnings about the long-term dangers of alcohol in a highly-visual form, and lectures on the effects of alcohol consumption on different parts of society.

Investigations and reports about alcohol and its consumption in the US include state-level reports like this one on the "manifold evils" of liquor in Connecticut, and nationally based ones like the report titled The Liquor Problem. The Anti-Saloon League, a powerful lobbying force in favor of temperance, published yearbooks that detailed the movement's progress toward a national ban on alcohol. The volume from 1910 includes several national, state, and county maps that show an increasingly dry United States.

While those working against the abolition of alcohol were not as well organized as supporters of the temperance movement, the United States Brewers Association did try to combat some of their arguments. Publications like Prohibition…..Facts and Figures to Show that it has been a Great Failure and Real and Imaginary Effects of Intemperance, despite containing numerous statistics and other factual information, were ultimately not enough to prevent a national ban on alcohol.

Cover, The Temperance Songster. HV5070 .S3
The Temperance Songster. HV5070 .S3
Grand Temperance Rally at Round Lake. HV5072 .M87 1878
The Political Prohibitionist for 1887. JK2381 1887b
The Spirituous Liquor Traffic and its Manifold Evils in Connecticut. HD9257 .C55 S6 1873
The Liquor Problem: A Summary of Investigations Conducted by the Committee of Fifty, 1893-1903. (V5035 L6
Two Lectures on Intemperance. HV5050 .M4 1852
Anti-Saloon League Yearbook, 1910. HV5286 .A8
Anti-Saloon League Yearbook, 1910. HV5286 .A8
Anti-Saloon League Yearbook, 1910. HV5286 .A8
Anti-Saloon League Yearbook, 1910. HV5286 .A8
The Drunkard's Children. NC1479 .C836
The Drunkard's Children, Plate VII. NC1479 .C836
The Drunkard's Children, Plate I. NC1479 .C836
The Drunkard's Children, Plate V. NC1479 .C836
The Drunkard's Children, Plate III. NC1479 .C836
Real and Imaginary Effects of Intemperance. HV5253 .T5 1884
Prohibition: An Investigation of its Effects in the United States and Canada. HV5089 .S64 1889

Read more Peek in the Stacks blog entries