“The Saloon Must Go,” proclaimed the banner of the Anti-Saloon League. Formed in 1893 in Ohio, the Anti-Saloon League published hundreds of fliers, articles, cartoons, magazines, and even an encyclopedia in its fight for Prohibition. By this time, the anti-alcohol movement had evolved from the Victorian moralism of the early temperance movement to a more businesslike Progressive approach. Earlier groups, like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, tended to focus on the moral implications of drinking and its effect on the family. Led by men, the Anti-Saloon League took a different approach. The ALS couched their arguments in the new “scientific” language of Progressivism, relying on quantification, statistics, and and polls. Overtly political, the ASL favored government intervention, their ultimate goal being a national Prohibition Amendment to the Constitution.
Driven by this single mission, the Anti-Saloon League were willing to ally with any group, including Democrats and Republicans, the Ku Klux Klan and the NAACP, the International Workers of the World, as well as many leading industrialists, including Henry Ford, John Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie. The consistent pressure of the ASL forced every public figure and organization to take a stand: wet or dry?
Starting with Maine in 1851, states and localities around the country had held referendums to let its citizens vote whether or not to ban alcohol. By the time Prohibition was ratified in January 1919, 32 states had already voted to go dry. The act was set to go into effect on January 17, 1920. Flush with their victory, the Anti-Saloon League tried to assuage any lingering doubts with the publication of “The Verdict” in April 1919. In order to provide the “most reliable and representative sources,” the ASL asked the governors of the dry states about the success or failure of Prohibition. Typical for the straight-shooting ASL, the flyer scrupulously listed the names of every member of the investigative committee. To further demonstrate their impartiality, they even included a negative answer, as well as an “out of the office” response. Some of the quotes gave specific statistics, while others offered platitudes, but the governors overwhelmingly endorsed the success of Prohibition in their states, along with a few unfortunate effects. The Anti-Saloon League clearly had high hopes for national Prohibition.
Citation: The Verdict. April -May 1919. Anti-Saloon League of Virginia papers, 1919, Acc. 45036, Library of Virginia.
Other sources used for context:
Kimball, Gregg. Director of Public Services and Outreach, Library of Virginia. Email message to author. August 8, 2017.
Weinhardt, Beth. Anti-Saloon League Museum, Westerville Public Library, Westerville, Ohio. 2017. http://www.westervillelibrary.org/antisaloon
Analyze: According to this article, was this Prohibition working? Why or why not? Explain your answer, citing at least three specific examples.
STEM STAT: Use the information from New Hampshire (No. 15) and Texas (No. 24) to determine the percentage decline in arrests for drunkenness.