Sydney Robbins and Tom Shaw


The antebellum temperance reform movement emerged with the rise of industrialization in the United States. The movement sought to lessen the lingering effects of increased urbanization and immigration, which were primarily crime, poverty, and lack of morality. The antebellum temperance reform specifically aimed to increase the wellbeing of Americans by discouraging the production, consumption, and sale of alcohol.


As the movement progressed, its aim shifted to stricter goals. The list below shows the progression of temperance reform goals.

Win people over to the idea of temperate use of alcohol

Voluntary abstinence

Prohibition of the manufacture and sale of ardent spirits


→ Coercion:

Legislation: With the Maine prohibition laws, passed in 1846 and 1851, Maine became the first state to pass state-wide prohibition laws. By the mid-1850s, laws prohibiting its manufacture and sale other than for medicinal purposes had passed in New England, Ohio and Northwest territory, New York, and Pennsylvania.

→ Moral Suasion:

Different groups of people joined together under gender or religion publicized the evils of alcohol and sought to teach people the ways of "salvation"through temperance.

→ Conversion:

Evangelical protestants was the leading group of people working to absolve drunks of their sins through religion.


John B. Gough

Edward C. Delavan

P.T. Barnum


American Temperance Society

The Cold Water Army

The Washingtonians


→ Success: After peaking in 1830 at roughly five gallons per capita annually, alcohol consumption sharply declined by the 1840s to under two.

→ Failures: After decades of working towards prohibition, the movement eventually lost momentum in the years leading up to the Civil War and many of the reform advocacy groups disbanded.

Assessment: Radical tactics for conservative ends

The majority of the driving forces and voices behind the antebellum temperance reform movement were radical conservative who took extreme measures to rid American society of what they saw as one of the biggest evils.



“Temperance Movement”, accessed October 22, 2014, http://colonialamericansigncompany.com/tavern/tavern_sign_temperance2.jpg

“The Maine Liquor Law. Map Showing the Extent of Prohibition in the United States in 1855.”, accessed October 23, 2014,


“A Temperance Pledge, 1834”, accessed October 22, 2014, http://www.teachushistory.org/Temperance/images/pledgesm.jpg

“Barnum on the Democratic Party and Temperance, 1852”, accessed October 23, 2014, http://chnm.gmu.edu/lostmuseum/lm/44/

“Songs of the Cold Water Army”, accessed October 23, 2014, https://manuscripts.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/cold_water_army.jpg


Brinkley, Alan. “American History A Survey.” 13th ed. New York: Columbia University, 1999. 327-328. Print.

Anon. "Abolition, Women's Rights, and Temperance Movements." National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, 19 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

“Temperance Reform in the Early 19th Century”, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.teachushistory.org/Temperance/forstudents.htm

“The Temperance Archives”, accessed October 23, 2014, http://chnm.gmu.edu/lostmuseum/searchlm.php?function=find&exhibit=temperance&browse=temperance

Comment Stream