Sons of Temperance

Templars of Honor Membership Badge

Templars of Honor Membership Badge for C. F. Adams, 1850-1900.  United States. Special Acquisitions Fund, 79.3.3a.  Photo by David Bohl.

In 1846, members of the Sons of Temperance formally established a new, but related group, the Templars of Honor and Temperance in New York City.  Members of this group, like the Sons of Temperance, swore an oath “…of abstinence and fraternity.”  They also declared, “our enemy is alcohol; our war one of extermination.”

The Templars of Honor developed, in part, because some members of the Sons of Temperance, founded in 1842, desired a more secret and  elaborate ritual for their ceremonies.  Initially the Templars of Honor's ritual included three degrees: Love, Purity and Fidelity.  In 1851, members adopted three more degrees: Tried, Approved and Select Templar.  In developing all their degrees, the Templars of Honor drew on Masonic and other fraternal rituals for inspiration.  As well, their regalia included aprons and collars and they employed some of the same symbols that as were used in Freemasonry.

Intriguingly, as in the case of the Mark Degree, part of Royal Arch Freemasonry, the Templars of Honor asked members to select a personal, meaningful emblem.  These emblems were engraved onto membership badges that bore symbols related to the group in relief, along with the Templar of Honor’s name.  These round, coin-like badges, because they featured a personal symbol, resemble Masonic mark medals and illustrate another way that the Templars of Honor used Masonic degrees as models for their work. 

Although these badges, or signets, were given to members, surviving personalized examples are uncommon.  One is pictured to the left.  On it, an engraver incised the name of an unknown member, C. F. Adams, and his symbol, a horse’s head, within an equilateral triangle.  His badge hangs from a larger badge made from purple ribbon and silver cut and engraved to resemble an altar with steps above a temple.  It also bears symbols related to the group, such as the emblem of the organization, the nine-pointed Star of Fulfillment enclosed within a triangle, at the center.  Letters on the columns holding up the temple's domed roof refer to virtues valued by the Templars of Honor:  truth, love, purity, and fidelity.  The other side of the round membership badge, pictured below, is not personalized. It bears different symbols important to the group--a lamp, a serpent biting its tail, an altar, and others--in relief.  The Templars made the round signets out of white metal and with silver and gold finishes.

The 1877 Manual of the Templars of Honor and Temperance featured illustrations and a description of the group’s membership badge.  The author noted how members should use this badge, advising them to “Bear this Signet and Symbol with you.  Wear it next to your heart.... Study well its lines, and angles…figures, and letters, and mystic characters.  It will speak to your heart, and its lessons and talismanic power will, if occasion should require…revive your drooping spirit.”

If you have any comments about this Templars of Honor membership badge, or know of other examples, please let us know below.





Rev. George B. Jocelyn, Manual of the Templars of Honor and Temperance, (New York, NY: J. N. Stearns, 1877).

Albert C. Stevens, The Cyclopaedia of Fraternities, (New York, NY: Hamilton Printing and Publishing Company, 1899), 410-412.

“Notes and Queries Temple of Honor Medal,” American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. XIII, July, 1878-July, 1879, October, 1878, 47-48.


Detail, Reverse of Templars of Honor Membership Badge for C. F. Adams, 1850-1900.  United States. Special Acquisitions Fund, 79.3.3a.  Photo by David Bohl.







Louis Leander Alexander and the Sons of Temperance

A2014_9_5DS1Louis Leander Alexander (1828-1904) was very active fraternally from 1855 through 1887 in the state of California. The first fraternal organizations he belonged to were the Sons of Temperance and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Grand Divisions of the Sons of Temperance were established in California by 1853 according to the Sacramento Daily Union. Our certificates show that Alexander belonged to Sonora Division No. 16.  During the 1850s and 1860s he lived in the city of Sonora in Tuolumne County, California, with his wife Marta Elizabeth Farr (1840-1898) and six children. Alexander worked as a Mining Superintendent.

The 1849 Gold Rush in California made the state ripe for raucous behavior and insobriety.   Miners, similar to soldiers and sailors on leave, often led solitary lives seeking riches and frequently ended up in taverns, hotels, and gambling palaces or tents, all of which served alcohol.

Various temperance movements emerged as a result of the Gold Rush in California.  The Sons of Temperance was one of these organizations. Scholar Ralph Mann suggests that the Sons of Temperance offered men a rich symbolic haven outside the home and an alternative masculine image.  In 1855, when Alexander was a member, this fraternal group supported a state bill on the total prohibition of alcohol.  The law did not get passed, but the influence of this organization was clear.

By 1855, Alexander was already a Past Worthy Patriarch of his division in the Sons of Temperance.  He was then appointed District Grand Worthy Patriarch which gave him the power to perform certain duties of the Grand Worthy Patriarch, a state-wide position.  According to an 1856 certificate (above left) Alexander was appointed "Degree Regent" for Sonora and Knights Ferry.  In this role, he supervised the conferral of degrees and the compliance with ritual throughout the district.

The Sons of Temperance invited both men and women to join.  However, according to his chapter in California Women and Politics:  From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression, historian Joshua Paddison suggests that in California men continued to dominate the temperance movement until 1878 when the Woman's Christian Temperance Union became active.  This organization transformed temperance from a male issue to a woman's concern and was embraced by California women.  Members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union sought to make public life alcohol-free.

By 1880, Alexander and family had moved to Oakland. It was here that he became a Master Mason in Oakland Lodge No. 188. Later, in 1886, Alexander became a 32° Scottish Rite Mason as evidenced by this A2014_LLAlexander_Scottish Rite certificate certificate (below right).


 Photo Credits:

Sons of Temperance Certificate for Louis Leander Alexander, 1856.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, A2014/9/5.

32° Scottish Rite Certificate for Louis Leander Alexander, 1886.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, A2014/9/14.


Further Reading:

Blocker, Jack S., David M. Fahey, and Ian R. Tyrrell.  Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History.  Santa Barbara, CA:  ABC-CLIO, 2003.

Cherny, Robert W., Mary Ann Irwin, and Ann M. Wilson.  California Women and Politics:  From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression. Lincoln, NB:  University of Nebraska Press, 2011.

Goodman, David.  Gold Seeking:  Victoria and California in the 1850's.  Stanford, CA:  Stanford University Press, 1994.

Portrait of a Teetotaler

Son_of_temperance_97_066di1 In the 1830s and 1840s, many Americans worried that increasingly immoderate drinking ruined health, disrupted families and fostered irreligious behavior.  To counter these social ills, men joined organizations that encouraged temperance. 

One of the first such American groups was the Sons of Temperance.  In 1842, founders organized the Sons in New York “to reform drunkards and to prevent others from becoming drunkards.”  As part of an initiation ceremony, every new member swore not to make, buy, sell or use alcohol.  If you look closely, you can see the exact pledge in this daguerreotype, "NO BROTHER SHALL MAKE, BUY SELL OR USE AS A BEVERAGE ANY SPIRITUOUS OR MALT LIQUORS WINE OR CIDER. " 

When the temperance movement was at its height, this young member, Obed Hervey Jones, had his photograph taken wearing Sons of Temperance regalia, holding an image of the pledge he had made.  This powerful and serious portrait reminded all who saw it of Jones’ solemn commitment. 

When the museum purchased this daguerreotype it, amazingly, came with the actual pledge Jones presented to the camera, folded up and then tucked into the photograph’s case.  Someone, maybe Jones, had written or stenciled the words carefully on penciled lines on both sides of the page.  One side is written in mirror image so the camera would capture a legible pledge in the finished photograph.  Son_of_temperance_cropped_91_016__3

In having his photograph taken, Jones may have come up with the idea of being photographed with the pledge on his own.  Or he may have been inspired by one of several prints of depicting members of the Sons of Temperance published in the mid-1800s.  Either way, I prefer his straight-forward gaze and work-roughened hands to the slender and fashionable gentlemen seen in the artist’s rendering.

Daguerreotype.  ca. 1850.  Museum Purchase, 88.3

Sons of Temperance, ca. 1850.  Published by Nathaniel Currier.  Special Acquisition Fund, 91.016.2

"To reform drunkards and to prevent others from becoming drunkards."

Sons_of_Temperance_1851_web The Sons of Temperance was the oldest of many temperance and total abstinence "secret societies" that existed in the United States in the nineteenth century. It was founded in 1842 in New York City by sixteen men, who met for the first time on September 29, 1842 at Teetotallers' Hall at 71 Division Street. Up until the founding of the Sons of Temperance, temperance and total abstinence societies only required members to pledge that they would abstain from consuming alcohol. The Sons of Temperance took this pledge many steps further: the organization was a fraternal group and a mutual benefit society which incorporated passwords, grips (i.e. handshakes), and rituals into the organization's activities, and also provided both life and funeral benefits to its members. But their stated aim was blunt and to the point: "to reform drunkards and to prevent others from becoming drunkards."

Pictured above is a detail from the cover of an 1851 edition of a book that was originally published in 1847, entitled The Order of the Sons of Temperance: Its Origin, Its History, Its Secrets, Its Objections, Its Designs, Its Influence: Comprising a Full, Authentic History of This Deservedly Popular Institution from Its Origins to the Present Time. It depicts a member of the Sons of Temperance, wearing a collar, holding a pledge, and standing by a fountain of water (drinking a glass of water was part of the initiation ceremony - "the beverage prepared by God himself"), beside which there is a staff with a banner that reads "Order of the Sons of Temperance to the Rescue of the World from Reign of Alcohol."

The question that comes to mind when first learning about temperance and abstinence societies in the United States in the early 19th century is, why was there such a strong movement toward abstinence from alcohol? There are a combination of factors, but W.J. Rorabaugh's The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition goes a long way in giving context to the social role that the act of consuming alcoholic beverages played in American life in the 18th and 19th centuries, and also shows how it laid the groundwork for the temperance movement. In the introduction to his book, Rorabaugh writes of being startled to discover that "Americans between 1790 and 1830 drank more alcoholic beverages per capita than ever before or since." But what I think makes this most interesting is to see how directly this led to an influential social movement in the 19th century. As Rorabaugh points out, knowing about the vast quantities of alcohol that were consumed in America during the late 1700s makes it easier to understand the temperance movement that started in the 1820s.

Sons_of_Temperance_Blue_Book_1872_circle_web Another book in our collection, Blue Book for the Use of Subordinate Divisions of the Order of the Sons of Temperance, contains the ritual of the Sons of Temperance. It perfectly illustrates how the first fraternal temperance society sold the idea of the benefits available to those willing to come together for a shared purpose. In the initiation portion of the ritual, the head of the group, called the Worthy Patron, addresses the candidate by saying:

Intemperance is peculiarly a social evil. We therefore resist its terrible power by a social and fraternal Combination. We join hand in hand, and heart to heart, in this Institution, to protect ourselves and meet a common foe with victorious power of organization.

In brothers and sisters here assembled, you behold a type of our mission's fulfillment. This is a sober world in miniature; and we seek to enlarge this circle of sobriety until it shall embrace the entire race of Man.

Interestingly, this idea of a communal "circle of sobriety" was not simply spoken of, but was part of the actual "floor work" of the ritual, as can be seen in the illustration above from the Blue Book, which included this illustration to instruct members of various "Divisions" (i.e. lodges) how they should arrange themselves during this part of the ceremony. Below this circle, the ritual instructs the members to join in a rousing sing-along, with temperate words, arranged to a tune not usually associated today with temperance, Auld Lang Syne:

Once more we here the pledge renew
 Of strict FIDELITY;
Still to our maxims ever true,
 To LOVE and PURITY...


The Order of the Sons of Temperance: Its Origin, Its History, Its Secrets, Its Objections, Its Designs, Its Influence: Comprising a Full, Authentic History of This Deservedly Popular Institution from Its Origins to the Present Time. Syracuse: Agan & Summers, 1851.
Call number: RARE HV 5296 .S6 L8 1851

Blue Book for the Use of the Subordinate Divisions of the Order of the Sons of Temperance. Boston: The National Division of North America, 1872.
Call number: HV 5296 .S6 B4 1872

Rorabaugh, W.J. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.
Call number: E 161 .R68 1979