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The Alcohol History Collection at the Center of Alcohol Studies: A Valuable Resource on American Temperance And Prohibition

Penny Booth Page

Abstract


The American temperance movement, which culminated in the thirteen-year "dry" hiatus known as National Prohibition, provides a fascinating look at one of the most colorful eras in our history. By the 1830s, American alcohol consumption had peaked at an all-time high of 7.1 gallons of absolute alcohol per capita annually--more than three times the current consumption rate of 2.18 gallons. As drunkenness grew, many concerned citizens reacted by forming societies advocating the "temperate" use of alcohol (which generally meant moderate use of beer or wine, but no use of hard liquor). However, as the century progressed, fears arising from industrialization and the growing tide of immigration led most temperance leaders to call for total abstinence from all alcoholic beverages as a means of protecting society from the ravages of drink. The Woman's Crusade of the 1870s and the formation of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) reflected the concerns of Americans across the social spectrum for the protection of the family and the maintenance of social norms based largely on Protestant Christian values (although many Catholics and others shared temperance sympathies as well). The Alcohol History Collection at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies provides a valuable look into the attitudes, events, organizations, and leaders of those times.

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