Temperance Movement

This poster was used by the Anti-Saloon League.

The temperance movement urged the American people to significantly reduce the consumption of alcohol. The movement was created by Carrie Nation whose husband died from alcohol related problems and had issues with child abuse. It was primarily supported by women who experienced domestic violence due to the overconsumption of booze. As women gained status and voting power, they used their positions to create laws that supported their views.

              The causes of the temperance movement included a decreased tolerance for drunkenness. While there had long been moral pressure to not over-imbibe, people could not completely eschew alcohol because of the lack of clean drinking water and prohibitive prices of drinks such as tea and coffee. Women's Suffrage also contributed to the movement, which was at first backed mainly by women. Staton and Anthony founded the New York States Women's Temperance Society, and Garett Smith was the first congressman to advocate for the movement. In the short term, the temperance movement led to Prohibition. However, prohibition created its own problems and unintentionally helped crime and the black market. Although Prohibition was repealed, there are still "dry counties" in the US where the sale of alcohol is illegal.

This poster portrays drinking as foolish and immoral and encourages the issue of sobriety as a family matter.

In the fall of 1847, while exhibiting Gen. Tom Thumb at Saratoga Springs, where the New-York State Fair was then being held, I saw so much intoxication among men of wealth and intellect, filling the highest positions in society, that I began to ask myself the question, What guarantee is there that I may not become a drunkard? I reflected that many wiser and better men than myself had fallen victims to intemperance; and although I was not in the habit of partaking often of strong drink, I was liable to do so whenever I met friends, which in my travels occurred every day. Hence I resolved to fly the danger, and I pledged myself at that time never again to partake of any kind of spirituous liquors as a beverage. — from The Life of P. T. Barnum, Written by Himself.

     P. T. Barnum was the founder of the Ringling Brothers Circus, but also served on the Connecticut Legislature. In this passage, he explains his reason for not drinking.

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