Anti-Saloon League

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This 1902 illustration from the Hawaiian Gazette newspaper humorously illustrates the Anti-Saloon League and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union's campaign against the producers and sellers of beers in Hawaii Woman's Christian Temperance Union Cartoon.jpg
This 1902 illustration from the Hawaiian Gazette newspaper humorously illustrates the Anti-Saloon League and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union's campaign against the producers and sellers of beers in Hawaii

The Anti-Saloon League was the leading organization lobbying for prohibition in the United States in the early 20th century.

Lobbying attempting to influence decisions of government officials

Lobbying, persuasion, or interest representation is the act of attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of officials in their daily life, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by many types of people, associations and organized groups, including individuals in the private sector, corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or advocacy groups. Lobbyists may be among a legislator's constituencies, meaning a voter or bloc of voters within their electoral district; they may engage in lobbying as a business. Professional lobbyists are people whose business is trying to influence legislation, regulation, or other government decisions, actions, or policies on behalf of a group or individual who hires them. Individuals and nonprofit organizations can also lobby as an act of volunteering or as a small part of their normal job. Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying that has become influential.

Prohibition in the United States constitutional ban on alcoholic beverages

Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933.


It was a key component of the Progressive Era, and was strongest in the South and rural North, drawing heavy support from pietistic Protestant ministers and their congregations, especially Methodists, Baptists, Disciples and Congregationalists. [1] It concentrated on legislation, and cared about how legislators voted, not whether they drank or not. Founded as a state society in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1893, its influence spread rapidly. In 1895, it became a national organization and quickly rose to become the most powerful prohibition lobby in America, overshadowing the older Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Prohibition Party. Its triumph was nationwide prohibition locked into the Constitution with passage of the 18th Amendment in 1920. It was decisively defeated when Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

The Progressive Era was a period of widespread social activism and political reform across the United States that spanned from the 1890s to the 1920s. The main objectives of the Progressive movement were eliminating problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and political corruption. The movement primarily targeted political machines and their bosses. By taking down these corrupt representatives in office, a further means of direct democracy would be established. They also sought regulation of monopolies and corporations through antitrust laws, which were seen as a way to promote equal competition for the advantage of legitimate competitors.

Baptists denomination of Protestant Christianity

Baptists are Christians distinguished by baptizing professing believers only, and doing so by complete immersion. Baptist churches also generally subscribe to the tenets of soul competency/liberty, salvation through faith alone, scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice, and the autonomy of the local congregation. Baptists generally recognize two ordinances: baptism and the Lord's supper.

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) religious denomination

The Christian Church is a Protestant Christian denomination in the United States in the Reformed tradition with historical ties to the Restoration Movement. The Disciples of Christ denomination officially was chartered in 1968, as it developed as a splinter from the non-denominational Christian Church. Within the Christian Church, from the 1920s forward, a segment moved in the direction of more liberal Protestant theology and acceptance of biblical criticism. This segment eventually developed a denominational structure and the Christian Church was established in 1968. Although the Disciples denomination has historical ties in the Restoration Movement with non-denominational Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, it is now more akin to Protestant denominations from Reformation heritage.

However, the organization continued, and is today known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems.

The American Council on Alcohol Problems is a federation of 37 state affiliates promoting the reduction of alcohol advertising, availability and consumption throughout the United States.

Organizational structure and operation

The League was the first modern pressure group in the United States organized around one issue. Unlike earlier popular movements, it utilized bureaucratic methods learned from business to build a strong organization. [2] The League's founder and first leader, Howard Hyde Russell (1855–1946), believed that the best leadership was selected, not elected. Russell built from the bottom up, shaping local leagues and raising the most promising young men to leadership at the local and state levels. This organizational strategy reinvigorated the temperance movement. [3] Publicity for the League was handled by Edward Young Clarke and Mary Elizabeth Tyler of the Southern Publicity Association. [4]

Howard Hyde Russell (1855–1946) was the founder of the Anti-Saloon League. Following a religious conversion, he gave up the practice of law to become a minister. In 1893, he organized the Ohio Anti-Saloon League. In 1895, when the Anti-Saloon League was established at the national level, Russell was elected superintendent. He mentored future leaders of the league, including Wayne Wheeler and Ernest Cherrington.

Temperance movement 19th- and 20th-century global social movement

The temperance movement is a social movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Participants in the movement typically criticize alcohol intoxication or promote complete abstinence (teetotalism), with leaders emphasizing alcohol's negative effects on health, personality, and family life. Typically the movement promotes alcohol education as well as demands new laws against the selling of alcohols, or those regulating the availability of alcohol, or those completely prohibiting it. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the temperance movement became prominent in many countries, particularly English-speaking and Scandinavian ones, and it led to Prohibition in the United States from 1920 to 1933.

Edward Young Clarke American businessman

Edward Young Clarke was the Imperial Wizard pro tempore of the Ku Klux Klan from 1915 to 1922. Prior to his Klan activities, Clarke headed the Atlanta-based Southern Publicity Association. He later served as the president of Monarch Publishing, a book publishing company.

Pressure politics

The League's most prominent leader was Wayne Wheeler, although both Ernest Cherrington and William E. Johnson ("Pussyfoot" Johnson), were also highly influential and powerful. The League used pressure politics in legislative politics, which it is credited with developing. [5]

Wayne Wheeler American temperance activist

Wayne Bidwell Wheeler a veritable father of the prohibitionist movement was an American attorney and longtime leader of the Anti-Saloon League, and played a major role in the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages.

William E. Johnson American temperance leader

William Eugene "Pussyfoot" Johnson was an American Prohibition advocate and law enforcement officer. In pursuit of his campaign to outlaw intoxicating beverages, he went undercover, posing as an habitué of saloons and collecting information against their owners. He gained the nickname "Pussyfoot" due to his cat-like stealth in the pursuit of suspects in the Oklahoma Territory.

Pressure politics generally refers to political action which relies heavily on the use of mass media and mass communications to persuade politicians that the public wants or demands a particular action. However, it commonly includes intimidation, threats, and other covert techniques as well.

Howard Ball has written that the Ku Klux Klan and the Anti-Saloon league were both immensely powerful pressure groups in Birmingham, Alabama during the Post-World War I period. A local newspaper editor at the time wrote that "In Alabama, it is hard to tell where the Anti-Saloon League ends and the Klan begins". [6] During the May 1928 primary in Alabama, the League joined with Klansmen and members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). When an Alabama state senator proposed an anti-masking statute "to emasculate the order's ability to terrorize people", lobbying led by J. Bib Mills, the superintendent of the Alabama Anti-Saloon League, ensured that the bill failed. [7]

Ku Klux Klan American white supremacy group

The Ku Klux Klan, commonly called the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist hate group. The Klan has existed in three distinct eras at different points in time during the history of the United States. Each has advocated extremist reactionary positions such as white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-immigration and—especially in later iterations—Nordicism and anti-Catholicism. Historically, the Klan used terrorism—both physical assault and murder—against groups or individuals whom they opposed. All three movements have called for the "purification" of American society and all are considered right-wing extremist organizations. In each era, membership was secret and estimates of the total were highly exaggerated by both friends and enemies.

Birmingham, Alabama most populous city in Alabama

Birmingham is a city located in the north central region of the U.S. state of Alabama. With an estimated 2017 population of 210,710, it is the most populous city in Alabama. Birmingham is the seat of Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous and fifth largest county. As of 2017, the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 1,149,807, making it the most populous in Alabama and 49th-most populous in the United States. Birmingham serves as an important regional hub and is associated with the Deep South, Piedmont, and Appalachian regions of the nation.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

When it came to fighting “wet” candidates, especially candidates such as Al Smith in the presidential election of 1928, the League was less effective because its audience was already Republican.[ citation needed ]

National constitutional amendment

The League used a multitiered approach in its attempts to secure a dry (prohibition) nation through national legislation and congressional hearings, the Scientific Temperance Federation, and its American Issue Publishing Company. The League also used emotion based on patriotism, efficiency and anti-German sentiment in World War I. The activists saw themselves as preachers fulfilling their religious duty of eliminating liquor in America. [8] Lamme (2003) explores the public relations approach used by the League as it tried to mobilize public opinion in favor of a dry, saloonless nation. It invented many of the modern techniques of public relations. [9]

Local work

The League lobbied at alleles of government for legislation to prohibit the manufacture or import of spirits, beer and wine. Ministers had launched several efforts to close Arizona saloons after the 1906 creation of League chapters in Yuma, Tucson, and Phoenix. A League organizer from New York arrived in 1909, but the Phoenix chapter was stymied by local-option elections, whereby local areas could decide whether to allow saloons. League members pressured local police to take licenses from establishments that violated closing hours or served women and minors, and they provided witnesses to testify about these violations. One witness was Frank Shindelbower, a juvenile from a poor family, who testified several saloons had sold him liquor; as a result those saloons lost their licenses. However owners discovered that Shindelbower had perjured himself, and he was imprisoned. After the Arizona Gazette and other newspapers pictured Shindelbower as the innocent tool of the Anti-Saloon League, he was pardoned. [10]

State operations

At the state level, the League had mixed results, usually doing best in rural and southern states. It made little headway in larger cities, or among liturgical church members such as Catholics, Jews, Episcopalians and German Lutherans. Pegram (1990) explains its success in Illinois under William Hamilton Anderson. From 1900 and 1905 the League worked to obtain a local option referendum law and became an official church federation. Local Option was passed in 1907 and by 1910 40 of Illinois' 102 counties and 1,059 of the state's townships and precincts had become dry, including some Protestant areas around Chicago. Despite these successes, after the Prohibition amendment was ratified in 1919, social problems such as organized crime ignored by the League undermined the public influence of the single-issue pressure group, and it faded in importance. [11] Pegram (1997) uses its failure in Maryland to explore the relationship between Southern Progressivism and national progressivism. The Maryland leader 1907-14 was William H. Anderson, but he was unable to adapt to local conditions, such as the large German element. The League failed to ally with local political bosses and attacked the Democratic Party. In Maryland, as in the rest of the South, Pegram concludes, traditional religious, political, and racial concerns constrained reform movements even as they converted Southerners to the new national politics of federal intervention and interest-group competition. [12]


Unable to cope with the failures of prohibition after 1928, especially bootlegging and organized crime as well as reduced government revenue, the League failed to counter the repeal forces. Also their failure to disassociate from the Ku Klux Klan brought on negative connotations with the League. [13] Led by prominent Democrats, Franklin D. Roosevelt won in 1932 on a wet platform. A new Constitutional amendment passed easily in 1933 to repeal the 18th amendment, and the League lost its power.


In 1909, the League moved its national headquarters from Washington to Westerville, Ohio, which had a reputation for supporting temperance. The American Issue Publishing House, the publishing arm of the League, was also in Westerville. Ernest Cherrington headed the company. It printed so many leaflets—over 40 tons of mail per month—that Westerville was the smallest town to have a first class post office.

From 1948 until 1950 it was named the Temperance League, from 1950 to 1964 the National Temperance League, from 1964 the American Council on Alcohol Problems. [14] Today the organization continues its original goal. A museum about the League is at the Westerville Public Library.

See also


  1. John Rumbarger, Profits, power, and prohibition: alcohol reform and the industrializing of America, 1800-1930 (1989)
  2. Peter H. Odegard, Pressure Politics: Story of the Anti-Saloon League (1928)
  3. K. Austin Kerr, Organized for Prohibition: A New History of the Anti-Saloon League (1985)
  4. Martinez, J. Michael (2016). A Long Dark Night: Race in America from Jim Crow to World War II. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN   978-1-4422-5996-6.
  5. K. Austin Kerr, "Organizing for Reform: The Anti-Saloon League and Innovation in Politics." American Quarterly 1980 32(1): 37-53 in JSTOR
  6. Ball, Howard (1996-09-12). Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior. Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-536018-9.
  7. Feldman, Glenn (1999-09-24). Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949. University of Alabama Press. ISBN   978-0-8173-0984-8.
  8. Margot Opdycke Lamme, "Tapping into War: Leveraging World War I in the Drive for a Dry Nation," American Journalism 2004 21(4): 63-91. ISSN   0882-1127
  9. Lamme (2003)
  10. H. David Ware, "The Anti-Saloon League Wages War in Phoenix, 1910: the Unlikely Case of Frank Shindelbower." Journal of Arizona History 1998 39(2): 141-154. ISSN   0021-9053
  11. Thomas R. Pegram, "The Dry Machine: the Formation of the Anti-Saloon League of Illinois," Illinois Historical Journal 1990 83(3): 173-186. ISSN   0748-8149
  12. Thomas R. Pegram, "Temperance Politics and Regional Political Culture: the Anti-saloon League in Maryland and the South, 1907-1915," Journal of Southern History 1997 63(1): 57-90. in JSTOR
  13. Thomas R. Pegram, “Hoodwinked: The Anti-Saloon League and the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Prohibition Enforcement,” in Journal of Gilded Age and Progressive era Vol. 7, Issue 1.
  14. Kerr, Organized for Prohibition: A New History of the Anti-Saloon League

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