Sample Dissertation Chapter Paper on The rise and fall of the anti saloon league

The rise and fall of the anti saloon league


Many historians, for example, Ernest Hurst Cherrington developed a towering interest in the rise and fall of prohibition, hundreds of authoritative texts have been written with an exceptional focus on the utmost characteristics of this period.  The eon of prohibition dates back to the year 1920, during this time the 18th amendment banned the production, sale, as well as transport of alcohol, however, the scheme of temperance in drinking had begun a century before.[1] Eventually, many religious groups’ politicians and social organizations endorsed for the total abolition of alcohol a move that resulted to prohibition. The groups used scientific fact based approaches to ban alcohol. The 18th amendment motivated a gush in the organized crime; the amendment was finally repealed in 1933 leading to a fall of these organizations. Organizations like the Anti-Saloon League, used scientific findings about the dangers of alcohol to their benefit, they advocated for compulsory instructions about temperance in different organizations using laws. The cardinal objective of this paper is to analyze the rise and fall of the Anti-Saloon League, to achieve its main objective; the paper will document the history of this group by analyzing its formation; objectives; reasons for its success and finally discuss its fall. The paper will draw significant knowledge from various historians.

The rise of the Anti-Saloon League

1.     The Formation of Anti Saloon League

One of the most outstanding historians in the Anti-Saloon debate is Cherrington, the author of the Anti Saloon League year book documented a precise history of the controversial movement, he provided insights as to how the group was formed and what eventually led to its fall in his book titled History of the Anti-Saloon League.[2] According to Cherrington, the year 1893 manifested an age in the history of sobriety in the U.S. For a century and a half, the country had experienced liquor traffic, which was growing by leaps and bounds, for almost one hundred years; many temperance organizations had spent their efforts on a long series of unsuccessful efforts to stem the tide of the intemperance. Scores of people dedicated themselves to the temperance cause; they sacrificed their lives to the temperance reform without any adequate results.[3]

Cherrington asserts that, the American society used a vast sum of money to buy alcohol every year; the most unfortunate thing is the fact that the law officers in the country could not do much to rescue the country from this vice.[4] State legislators were immensely submissive to the supreme authorities of liquor machines which could manipulate the hands of law. Cherrington observations are similar to those of another Historian by the name Mark Haller; Haller contends that the federal government was kept silent by the eighty million dollar tax that it was receiving from the alcohol business.[5] He further posits that, despite the fact that the church was committed to fight temperance, the issue of apathy and indifference held the power of balance among the Christian hosts.[6] Some temperance organizations hated other organizations more than they hated the Saloon. The barring laws in most states were poorly caused by necessity or force; no efforts were made to give any attention to the implementation of prohibition.

Cherrington further suggested that the Saloon was responsible for controlling politics, a point that is seconded by Luther Huston who propounds the same by explaining that Saloons dictated the political appointments and chose the officers who would supervise its activities.[7] The Saloon manipulated the hands of the legitimate business and even vaunted itself in the church. It subverted the facet of ethics and abstention.[8] Many challenges, confronted all people who claimed the right to be numbered among the temperance groups. In spite of the challenges, the early founders of the Anti-Saloon League had the credence as well as faith to create a common ground for the members of all the temperance organizations.[9] According to Christine Sismondo, the organizations had a common creed that was deeply rooted in the Christian belief and its attitude toward liquor, the main aim of the group was to create a common policy, come up with an effective propaganda of agitation; legislation as well as law enforcement for the solution of the liquor challenge.[10]

After a hundred years of waiting and praying, the Anti-Saloon League was formed. The Ohio Anti-Saloon League emanated from the Oberlin, Ohio Temperance Alliance, which had been organized on the evening of March 30, 1874. This was a mass meeting of the Oberlin citizens. The goal of the meeting was to address the challenges of the movement in that college town. Reverend Bowden, Professor Hiram and Rev James all gave stirring addresses during the meeting. They urged people to unite in order to eliminate the challenge of liquor in their communities.

2.     The objective of the Anti-Saloon movement

Margot Opdyck Lamme insightful book Public Relations and Religion in American History: Evangelism and Temperance chronicles the history of the Anti-Saloon league through the eyes of the group’s president; Russell, who became the general superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League that was modeled after the Ohio League.[11] The national organizations created state leagues that carried the work and aroused the public sentiments on the question of liquor. During his first national conference, Russell quoted the constitution of the league outlining the main objectives of the group.[12] According to Russell, the premier intent of Anti-Saloon League was suppressing the Saloon, the League invited people who harbored the same harmony as that of the group. Austin Kerr further supports Lamme work by claiming that Anti-Saloon League did not seek to have any affiliation with political parties; it worked hard to maintain neutrality on the questions of the public policy.[13]

3.     The 18th amendment

By 1916 a total of 48 states had already passed the anti-Saloon legislation, many states even prohibited the manufacture of alcoholic beverages as well, after the congressional election, the dry members( these are members who favored the prohibition, won by a two thirds majority over the wets( this are members of the congress who did not support the prohibition).[14] On 29th January, 1919, American congress validated the 18th amendment, this amendment prevented the fabrication; conveyance and transaction of alcohol in the U.S; this amendment went into upshot the following year after its ratification. In the year 1919, the national prohibition act, which was commonly known as the Volstead act was enacted in order to help the government by providing a means through which prohibition could be enforced.[15]

4.     Reasons for success of the Anti-Saloon movement

Thomas Welskopp propounded that the Anti- Saloon League had been successful in America as a result of the special circumstances that attended its genesis and development. The combination of different special elements and constituents played a significant role in ensuring the group success.[16]  Cherrington gives a detailed explanation to Welskopp main points by asserting that, the factors that led to the group’s success in its early years include; the group had a strong leader who was providentially called, Howard Russell; the leader of the group had many qualities that made him effective.[17] Russell was an active lawyer who often prosecuted lawless saloon men, as a clergyman for seven years he was familiar with the war on the saloon. The fact that Russell worked in a public company made the public have credence in his governance style. As a young man, Russell was nearly trapped by the Saloon and for this purpose he developed an intense hate towards the Saloon.

The providential environment was also a success factor. The organization at Oberlin had been founded by reformers; the men who formed the group were devoted to the tasks that were ahead of them.[18] Oberlin was the faultless environment for the cradle of the anti saloon movement. It was hard to find another place in the United States with two thousand people who were willing to sponsor the Anti-Saloon movement. Oberlin despite having meager resources gave stupendous contributions that helped in financing the activities of the movement. Ohio, the state where the Anti-Saloon League was born was full of thinkers and virile doers of deeds.

The triennial aspect which contributed to triumph of Anti-Saloon League during its initial days was the inspired methods of the organization.[19] The Anti-Saloon movement was essentially in need to create reforms, second effective legislation and third law enforcement. The Anti-Saloon League strived to parade the fact that the most viable political technique was the non partisan means. In both the primaries and the polls, it was possible to secure through the state legislature and Congress a dominant majority who came together and forgot about their various parties as well as factionalism. The league worked hard in uniting different churches for temperance reforms regardless of their different sects or reforms. This activity worked miracles by setting a death seal, upon the liquor traffic in the United States.

Adequate financial support was another significant feature that increased the success of the organization. There was a monthly subscription card that was created and utilized by founders of the group. Monthly subscriptions in all states acted as a life buoy for conveyance in all states. The Anti-Saloon League system was set in motion by the Oberlin Temperance alliance developed into a conquering force in Ohio, from here it expanded into the other states of the union, this element is considered as the most basic and historically germinant of the Anti- Saloon League system.

The fall of the Anti-Saloon League

1.     How the Anti-Saloon League lost its focus

William Rorabaraugh contends that since the Anti-Saloon movement was created, its main goal was to create a dry America. However, she asserts that the strategies that the league employed were not consistent and for this reason were doomed to fail.[20] Rorabaraugh claims that the issue of alcohol reform is centered in the aspect of temperance and prohibition. Temperance utilizes moral reasoning as well as other strategies to assist people to decrease their alcohol uptake. Prohibition utilizes politics as well as the legal system for the purpose of criminalizing any form of alcohol consumption outside the medical use.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The  Anti-Saloon league was originally created through a broad platform which was inclusive of the temperance ideology, its goals were changed in 1919 under the leadership of Wayne B Wheeler; the organization focused more on the prohibition of alcohol.[21] The change meant that the group would not only advocate against alcohol, but the techniques of bringing reform would center on legal coercion rather than the moral suasion. Many Historians contend that the shift was significant to the American temperance movement as a whole, this is because the league led charge, to the movement greatest triumph; the 18th amendment.

It is not comprehensible whether the League’s restricted focus was effective in helping the group accomplish its original assignment. Jack S Blocker, a historian, contends that the more focused reforms had the power to bring together large numbers of multi faceted temperance movements under a single denominator.[22]

The large support made it possible for the group’s triumph for many years. Despite this argument, Mark Edward and James Kirby believed that, by focusing on the drinking reforms, the Anti-Saloon League lost touch with the harsh reality of the American life during the 1930’s, this made the group emphasize it desires at a time when many Americans had bigger problems, for this reason prohibition was repealed and temperance movement was abandoned.[23] It is evidently true that a focused temperance agenda was significant in creating national prohibition legislation, the shift in focus from a morally based reform of the American society and culture to a legislated prohibition was not able to create a drier America.[24]

2.  A shift towards repeal

Criticism on prohibition gathered momentum slowly; first it was in the form of the concerned citizens who noted the painful shortcomings of the enforcement with the goal of remediation rather than repudiation. In the mid 1920’s, there was an increase in the satirical treatment of the prohibition issues, especially on the east coast magazines whose aim was to entertain readers in the drinking culture. The accumulation of scandals and stories concerning institution and habits become a widespread topic that was discussed by the public and the media as well. Mabel Walker; an assistant AG, posited that the issue of proscription was present in many social gatherings.[25]

From 1922, the literary digest magazine conducted several opinion surveys on the issue of prohibition and the outright repeal of the 18th amendment, the polls indicated that most people were in favor of enforcement apart from the states that advocated for alcohol use. The poll stipulated that even in areas where proscription was enforced, a majority of people were averse to proscription. The poll revealed that prohibition had become a very hot political issue. Despite the fact that the Anti-Saloon League in was able to neutralize prohibition in the 1924 presidential campaigns, the issue was significant in that it helped to realign the political parties in the U.S.

Despite the fact that the public preferred to have temperance in the fight against alcohol, the Anti-Saloon league chose to fight for prohibition, the measure used by this group was more of an extremist measure as perceived  by many historians.[26] According to Nathan Miller, the immense disparity between what the public wanted and the actions that the league took was the beginning of a long series of missteps that made the Anti-Saloon League loses its public favor.[27]

Apart from the reforms by the Anti-Saloon League being narrow, the group was not able to adapt to the changes in the public opinion, for this reason, the groups were considered as ignorant and callous to its former supporters.[28] The problem with Anti-Saloon League became perceptible during the economic depression. As Sean Dennis Cashman reveals, when the country was worried about the great depression, the Anti-Saloon League was busy pursuing their agenda single handed, they requested for donations from their supporters.[29] Public relations infelicity became common in the movement, during the group’s later years; U.S witnessed the unfit to drink alcohol.

The Volstead act made denatured alcohol legal and tax exempt, without worrying about its detrimental consequences, denatured alcohol became a source of the rising number of deaths in the U.S, these worrying trends did not shake any empathetic muscle in the Anti-Saloon League as the organization did not apologize for the legislation involvement in deaths, Anti-Saloon League blamed the decease saying that their actions were comparable to deliberate suicide.[30] Utilization of this category of language angered people, the movement started to mislay its reputation.

3. The Repeal

Hoover was one of the most unpopular presidents during the prohibition era; his defense of the issue of prohibition was incongruent with his detachment from the economic challenges that were presented by the economic depression.[31] The president became more and more isolated siding with the dry side, which was still being motivated by the Anti-Saloon League. Prohibition in the house made the Anti-Saloon League, to lose the bipartisan support that it had once enjoyed many competent and well financed groups used the influence of the modern media culture, became active in lobbying for repeal.

The Association against the Prohibition Amendment outdistanced Anti-Saloon League in regards to media attention.[32] The presidential election of 1932 marked the beginning of another phase in the history of the League. The election of Roosevelt as the president dealt a final blow to the prohibition as he signed the Beer and Revenue Act which modified the Volstead Act to re-legalize beer that had an alcohol content of 3.2 percent. Through the Act, the government re-established federal excise taxes on alcohol which were much needed at a time when the country was suffering from the economic depression.[33] On 7th April 1933, the citizens were allowed to enjoy their first legal bottle of beer after thirteen years.


Despite the fact that the Anti –Saloon League was successful during its time, it made a mistake of pursuing legal actions for a social issue, the organizations made the logical, but an inaccurate assumption that the American Public had a fearful reverence for the acts of congress. It is evident that previous temperance movements used moral suasion as a primary tool in reforming the American public; they focused more on the idea of temperance rather than abstinence. The emphasis of the Anti-Saloon League movement was to sober the American public and not completely dry it out, these behavior patterns were accepted by the reform efforts as positive reforms. The organization’s strategy was very successful in 1800 and 1900; it drastically changed the American social life. Despite the success of the earlier movement, Anti-Saloon League thought that in order to effect change it needed to pursue national prohibition legislation; this further alienated its constituency and failed to implement the social reforms that it aimed for.  The drastic negative social effects that resulted due to the nominal success in reducing American drinking made the Anti-Saloon League lose its popularity; many people began to flout the law, many people lost their moral connection to the cause and began to advocate for an amendment of the law, this was finally achieved in 1933


Primary sources


Cherrington, Ernest Hurst. History of the Anti-Saloon League. Ohio: The American Publishing Company , 1913.

Huston, Luther A. “New Tactics Used in War on Liquor.” New York Times , February 21, 1937: 55.

Schmeckebier, Laurence F. The Bureau of Prohibition its History activities and organization. Washington, 1929.


Secondary sources

Allen, Frederick Lewin. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s. New York: Harper Perenial Modern Classics, 2010.

Asbury, Herbert. The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition . New York: Greenwood Press, 1968.

Behr, Edwaed. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America . New York: Arcade Publishing , 2011.

Blocker, Jack S. American Temperance Movements. Boston : Twayne Publishers , 1989.

Cashman, Sean Dennis. Prohibition: The Lie of the Land. New York: The Free Press, 1981.

Haller, Mark. “Illegal Enterprise: A Theoretical and Historical Interpratation.” Criminology , 1990: 35-207.

Kerr, Austin. Organized for Prohibition: A New History of the Anti-Saloon League. Yale: Yale University Press, 1985.

Lamme, Margot Opdycke. Public Relations and Religion in American History: Evangelism, Temperance, and Business. New York: Routledge , 2014.

Lender, Mark Edward, and James Kirby Martin. Drinking In America. New York: The Free Press, 1987.

Miller, Nathan. New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of the Modern America . New York: Da Capo Press, 2004.

Nelli, Humbert S. The Business of Crime: Italian and Syndicate Crime in the United States. New York: New York Publishers , 1976.

Okrent, Daniel. The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New york: Scribner , 2011.

Pegrum, Thomas R. Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800-1933. California: Ivan R Dee, 1999.

Rorabaugh, William J. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Wiley Publishers , 1979.

Sismondo, Christine. America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011.

Szymanski, Ann Marie. Pathways to Prohibition: Radicals Moderates and Social Movements outcomes . Duke: Duke University , 2003.

Welskopp, Thomas. Prohibition in the United States: The German American Experience 1919-1933. Bielefield : University of Bielefield , 2010.


[1] Ernest Hurst Cherrington. History of the Anti-Saloon League (Ohio: The  American  Publishing  Company , 1913), 35.

[2] Ernest Hurst Cherrington. History of the Anti-Saloon League (Ohio: The  American  Publishing  Company , 1913), 35.

[3] Cherrington. History of the Anti-Saloon League , 35.

[4] Cherrington. History of the Anti-Saloon League , 35.

[5] Mark Haller. “Illegal Enterprise: A Theoretical and Historical Interpratation.” Criminology , 1990: 35-207.

[6] Haller. “Illegal Enterprise: A Theoretical and Historical Interpratation,  35-207.

[7] Cherrington. History of the Anti-Saloon League , 35.

[8] Luther A Huston. “New Tactics Used in War on Liquor.” New York Times , February 21, 1937: 55.

[9] Ann Marie Szymanski. Pathways to Prohibition: Radicals Moderates and Social Movements outcomes . (Duke: Duke University , 2003), 236.

[10] Christine Sismondo. America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2011), 265.

[11] Lamme. Public Relations and Religion in American History: Evangelism, Temperance, and Business ( New York: Routledge , 2014), 324.

[12] Margot Opdycke Lamme. Public Relations and Religion in American History: Evangelism, Temperance, and Business ( New York: Routledge , 2014), 324.

[13] Austin Kerr. Organized for Prohibition: A New History of the Anti-Saloon League (Yale: Yale University Press, 1985), 146.

[14] Daniel Okrent. The Rise and fall of Prohibition (New York: Scribner, 2011), 78.

[15] Herbert Asbury. The Great Illusion: An Informal History of Prohibition (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), 67.

[16] Thomas Welskop. Prohibition in the United States: The German American Experience 1919-1933. (Bielefield : University of Bielefield , 2010), 257.

[17] Cherrington. History of the Anti-Saloon League , 35.

[18] Welskop. Prohibition in the United States , 257

[19] Cherrington. History of the Anti-Saloon League, 35.

[20] William J Rorabaraugh. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition ( New York: Wiley Publishers , 1979), 124.

[21] Rorabaraugh. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition, 124.

[22] Jack S Blocker. American Temperance Movement  (Boston : Twayne Publishers , 1989), 78.

[23] Mark Edward Lender, and James Kirby Martin. Drinking In America (New York: The Free Press, 1987).

[24] Lender, and Martin. Drinking In America, 56.

[25] Lender, and Martin. Drinking In America, 78

[26] Humbert S Nelli. The Business of Crime: Italian and Syndicate Crime in the United States ( New York: New York Publishers , 1976), 78.

[27] Nathan Miller. New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of the Modern America  (New York: Da Capo Press, 2004), 56.

[28] Edwaed Behr. Prohibition: Thirteen Years that Changed America (New York: Arcade Publishing , 2011),69.


[29] Dennis Cashman Sean. Prohibition: The Lie of the Land (New York: The Free Press, 1981), 65.

[30] Frederick Lewin Allen. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010), 54.

[31] Sean. Prohibition: The Lie of the Land, 65.

[32] Thomas R Pegrum. Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800-1933 (California: Ivan R Dee, 1999), 89.

[33] Laurence F Schmeckebier . The Bureau of Prohibition its History activities and organization (Washington, 1929), 234.