National temperance and prohibition movement

Temperance march in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich.

During the past forty years, the Bentley Historical Library has become one of the leading repositories in the country for manuscripts and printed materials on the history of the temperance and prohibition movements. Manuscript collections include the records of every major temperance organization of the last 150 years and also the personal papers of many of the leaders of these organizations. In addition to these manuscript records, the Bentley Historical Library has a collection of printed materials on temperance, including historical sketches, biographies, yearbooks, programs of annual meetings, and many sets of temperance periodicals. A large number of photographs, broadsides, leaflets and other ephemera on temperance are also preserved at the Collections. Many of these records were microfilmed and are available for inter-library loan. A guide to these records has been prepared: Guide to the microfilm edition of temperance and prohibition papers (1977).

The earliest temperance records available in the Bentley Historical Library date from the 1830s, when local temperance societies began to appear in towns all over the United States. The first real national organization was the Washingtonian movement which began in 1840. This was quickly followed by other organizations, the Sons of Temperance in 1842, the Temple of Honor in 1845, and the Independent Order of Good Templars (IOGT) in 1852. The library has an extensive file of records pertaining to the Good Templars including minutes, financial records, and publications. The Good Templars lodges were very successful in recruiting Scandinavian immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and many lodges operated for years in the native tongues of the immigrants.

Founded in 1869, as an alternative to the two major political parties which did not strongly oppose the liquor trade, the Prohibition party was a significant third party force in the 1880s and 1890s. The Bentley Library houses the records of the party and of many of its leaders. The same is true of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union which came into existence in 1874, and which remains to this day one of the strongest anti-liquor voices in the United States. The most prominent early leader of the movement was Frances E. Willard, the president of the national W.C.T.U. from 1879 to 1899. She broadened the program of the Union to include woman suffrage and other reforms as well as temperance and took an active part in politics, especially with the Prohibition Party. The library has on microfilm the papers of Willard and the national WCTU as well as original records of individual Michigan chapters.

The Anti-Saloon League of America was founded in Ohio in 1893 by a Congregational minister named Howard Hyde Russell. It soon became the greatest political pressure group lobbying for prohibition. By backing members of both major political parties who agreed with their views, they eventually found Congress sympathetic toward their views and pushed through Prohibition. Although they continued to fight for their belief, the organization went into a decline after the repeal of the 18th Amendment, becoming known for a while as the Temperance League of America. The organization later changed its name to the American Council on Alcohol Problems. Included with these records are correspondence, reports, minutes, speeches, and published materials.

Related finding aids:

Michigan Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Michigan Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Records, 1874-1991

Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Flint Federation (Flint, Mich.) Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Flint Federation records, 1874-1980

Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Ann Arbor Chapter. Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Ann Arbor Chapter records, 1874 and 1877-1979

Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Battle Creek Chapter. Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Battle Creek Chapter records, 1874-1978