The Beginnings of Prohibition

As time goes along, attitudes and feelings are always changing, especially in American history. Our attention for the beginning of prohibition can be taken to Ohio. Yes, that's right, the same state that almost screwed up our 2004 Presidential Election, and some might say that it did, was the birthplace of Prohibition!

The Women's Christian Temperance Union was founded in Hillsboro, Ohio. On December 24, 1873, a day after a speech given by Dr. Dio Lewis on Temperance at the Hillsboro Music Hall, seventy women marched on the saloons. The following is a description of the women's "crusade:"

"Walking two by two, the smaller ones in the front and the taller coming after, they sang more or less confidently, 'Give to the Winds Thy Fears,' that heartening reassurance of Divine protection now known to every WCTU member as the Crusade Hymn. Every day they visited the saloons and the drug stores where liquor was sold. They prayed on sawdust floors or, being denied entrance, knelt on snowy pavements before the doorways, until almost all the sellers capitulated."

Ladies of the WCTU praying at a local saloon.
The caption of the picture reads, "Lady Crusaders."

Read More About the Crusades of the WCTU

Throughout the 1870's and the 1880's the WCTU set out to make America "dry." However, by 1895, the movement needed a change, and the Anti-Saloon League provided the change needed.

The main change from the WCTU was that the Anti-Saloon League was unisex - in that both men and women were involved in the "crusades." "At Oberlin, Ohio on May 24, 1893 a new American temperance organization was formed. The organization was to work for unification of public anti-alcohol sentiment, enforcement of existing temperance laws, and enactment of further anti-alcohol legislation." In the beginning, the Anti-Saloon League was interested in changing Ohio into a dry state. However, as time went on, they changed their sites to the entire country.

"Wayne Wheeler, later the head lobbyist for the League known to many as the 'dry boss', described what the League did at this crucial time. Word went out from Washington and state headquarters to send letters, telegrams, and petitions to Congressmen and Senators in Washington. They rolled in by tens of thousands, burying Congress like an avalanche... We started off, early in 1914, with about 20,000 speakers, mostly volunteers all over the United States. They spoke at every opportunity to every sort of gathering... As the climax approached we doubled our forces. Even that wasn't enough, so for a time the world's largest prohibition printing establishment ran three shifts a day, every hour of the twenty four, grinding out dry literature." "As the result of these efforts the drys gained seats in the 1914 elections."

Although they were not able to set forth a national amendment in 1914, the stage was set, and in 6 years, the nation would be under national Prohibition.

A History of the Anti-Saloon League


(L) A Poster advertising that either the saloon or boys and girls - one must go.

(R) Prohibition propaganda showing a saloon owner preying on children.

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