Temperance movement

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.







Rare Temperance Letter Provides Insights into the Lives of Women

Research into this unsigned letter attributed to Mary E. Elliot (1851-1942) in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library provides an intimate look into the life of this nineteenth-century reformer and sheds light into the personal motives that led many American women to champion the crusade against alcohol. In the letter, which may be read in full by clicking the image below, Elliot, the Grand Worthy Secretary for the Grand Lodge Massachusetts of the Independent Order of Good Templars, offers her support and praise to an anonymous female Temperance reformer whose relative suffered from alcoholism.

Temperance letter attributed to Mary E. Elliot, August 3, 1876


"I wish I could fly to you – if only for a moment—to tell you how deeply I sympathize with you and how I would gladly lighten your burden of sorrow if I could. It seems cruel that one who has saved so many as you have and caused so much happiness should be permitted to see one so dear to her suffer from temptation. If you succeed in this same period in saving him what a glorious triumph it will be, I have for him feelings of the tenderest sympathy and trust that the prospect now looks brighter, knowing as I do your fidelity and devotion I feel confident that the victory will be yours. You have my earnest prayers that this may be the result; that he who is so kind and generous and capable of accomplishing so much good in the world may yet conquer his appetite."

While more research needs to be conducted to verify the identity of Elliot’s female recipient, readers may conclude from Elliot’s letter that she was most likely a leader or potential leader in the Temperance movement, a charismatic speaker and advocate of the cause who inspired both men and women alike through her lectures throughout the state of Massachusetts.

In addition to being an advocate for Temperance reform, Mary E. Elliot was a passionate supporter of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans association. In 1878, Elliot helped form an auxiliary relief corps to Willard C. Kinsley Post, No. 139, G.A.R., in Somerville, Massachusetts, and for fifty years, served as the Secretary for the Department of Massachusetts Women’s Relief Corps, the state’s auxiliary to the G.A.R.  Elliot also served as a regular contributor to the military department of the Boston Globe for nearly 20 years, where she wrote extensively upon the efforts of women to support the Relief Corps.

Do you have any information regarding the history of this document or the people behind its creation? Or would you like to learn more about the Temperance movement in America? Feel free to contact us or to comment about this topic in the comments section below.


Temperance letter attributed to Mary E. Elliot to unknown recipient, August 3, 1876. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 300.010.


Anonymous. 1901. Charles Darwin Elliot, Mary Elvira Elliot, from the Massachusetts Edition of the American Series of Popular Biographies. [Boston?]: [publisher not identified]. Accessed: 25 March 2019. https://archive.org/stream/charlesdarwinell00np/charlesdarwinell00np_djvu.txt

Cambridge Chronicle. 1879. “Temperance Reminiscences. Some Recollections of Twenty Years.” August 23, 1879. Accessed: 25 March 2019. https://cambridge.dlconsulting.com/?a=d&d=Chronicle18790823-01.2.2

Daily Boston Globe. 1942. “Mary E. Elliot is Dead at 91.” November 8, 1942.

Digital Public Library of America. n.d. “Women and the Temperance Movement.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/women-and-the-temperance-movement

Howe, Julia Ward, ed. “Mary Elvira Elliot” In Representative Women of New England, 305-307. Boston: New England Historical Publishing Company. Accessed: 25 March 2019. https://books.google.com/books/about/Representative_Women_of_New_England.html?id=BY0EAAAAYAAJ

IOGT International. n.d. “The History.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://iogt.org/about-iogt/the-iogt-way/who-we-are/the-history/

Library of Congress. n.d. “The Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://www.loc.gov/rr/main/gar/garintro.html

National Woman’s Relief Corps. n.d. “Women’s Relief Corps.” Accessed 25 March 2019. http://womansreliefcorps.org/

Woman's Relief Corps (U.S.), Department of Massachusetts. 1895. History of the Department of Massachusetts, Woman’s Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic. Boston: E. B. Stillings & Co. Accessed 25 March 2019. https://archive.org/details/historyofdepartm01woma/page/n7

A Violation of Our Principles: Political Discussion within Walls of the Lodge

One of the central rules adopted by many fraternal societies is the prohibition of political discussion within the walls of the lodge. Freemasonry adheres to this prohibition, as does the International Organisation of Good Templars (IOGT), the fraternity highlighted in this letter from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.


Utica Oct 27th 1871

E. S. Hughes Esq.
Dear Bro.

It having come to my knowledge that Bro. Lewis H. Babcock the Democratic candidate for Dist. Attorney has been visiting the several Lodges of our order in the county for the purpose of soliciting the votes of Temperance men. I deem it my duty to caution Lodges against allowing themselves to be drawn into any political controversy as Lodges.

At the same time, I would state the facts as they are in relation to the candidates for district atty for the information of such voters of our order as are unacquainted with them. Lewis H. Babcock, the Democratic nominee, and Capt. D. C. Stoddard, the Republican nominee, are both members of Utica Central Lodge, No. 240, and have been for 3 or 4 years. During that time, Bro. Babcock has repeatedly violated his obligation

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and has been disciplined therefor. It is only since his nomination that he has returned to the Lodge. Bro. Stoddard has maintained his standing from the first and is known as a consistent and persistent Temperance Man. Good Templars should consider these facts and judge accordingly.

This circular is not intended to be read in Lodge but is for the information of members outside the Lodge room.

Fraternally Yours,

C. D. Rose
County Chief Templar

Letter from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27.

​The IOGT, a temperance society which still exists today, was begun by a “few printer boys” or apprentices in Utica, New York, during the winter of 1850-1851. Research into this letter reveals that the author was most likely Corydon D. Rose of Utica. Rose worked as a printer, and Federal Census records for 1870 reveal that he worked for the Temperance Patriot, the official newspaper of the Grand Lodge of the Order of Good Templars of the State of New York, and may have served as an editor. While Rose cautions his recipient, E. S. Hughes, about political discussion taking place within the walls of the lodge, amusingly, he holds no such reservation about such discussions taking place “outside of the Lodge room” and proceeds to provide “the facts” regarding the candidates’ temperance reputation.

As for who won the district attorney’s race of 1871, Henry Cookingham reports in his History of Oneida County that Rose’s choice, David C. Stoddard, a Temperance man and a Freemason, would go on to carry Oneida county by a majority of 845 votes over Lewis H. Babcock, who was also a Freemason.


Letter and envelope from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27. Museum Purchase. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, FR 430.002.


Ancestry.com (2011). U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995: Boyd’s Business Directory of Utica, Rome, Sherburne, Norwich, and Intermediate Villages, 1871-72. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Ancestry.com (2009). 1870 United States Federal Census. Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Chase, Simeon B. (1876). “Section 74.” In A Digest of the Laws, Decisions, Rules and Usages of the Independent Order of Good Templars with a Brief Treatise on Parliamentary Practice. (pp. 236). Philadelphia: Garrigues Brothers.

Cookinham, Henry J.(1912). History of Oneida County, New York: from 1700 to the Present Time. (Vol. 1) Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=oMspAQAAMAAJ&q

Durant, Samuel (1878). History of Oneida County, New York: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia, PA: Everts and Fariss.

Grand Lodge of New York (1875). “Charges of a Free Mason: Charge VI: 2.” In Constitution and Statutes, Rules of Order and Code of Procedure of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York. New York: Thomas Holman.

Heinmiller, Gary L. (2010). “Craft Masonry in Oneida County, New York.” Onondaga and Oswego Masonic District Historical Society. Accessed: 25 February 2016. http://www.omdhs.syracusemasons.com/sites/default/files/history/Craft%20Masonry%20in%20Oneida%20County.pdf

Stevens, Albert C. (1907). Independent Order of Good Templars. In Cyclopædia of Fraternities. (pp. 404 - 406). New York: E. B. Treat and Company. https://archive.org/stream/cyclopdiaoffra00stevrich/cyclopdiaoffra00stevrich_djvu.txt

Wager, Daniel Elbridge (1896). “David Curtis Stoddard.” In Our County and Its People: A Descriptive Work on Oneida County, New York. (pp. 74 – 77). [Boston, MA]: Boston History Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=ss44AQAAMAAJ&dq

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.

Independent Order of Good Templars in Oswego County, New York

A2012_44_1c_DS_web versionThe year 2012 has brought many new acquistions to the Archives and one notable collection was a group of seven ledgers from Bowens Corners Lodge, No. 67, Oswego County, New York of the Independent Order of Good Templars. These ledgers date from 1902-1908.

The ledger minutes from Bowens Corners were written during one peak of the Temperance Movement within the United States and the height of membership in the Independent Order of Good Templars. In 1907, the Independent Order of Good Templars had 350,000 members nationwide. It was an organization that had split off from the International Order of Good Templars. However, the factions came together in 1852 and formed the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars of the State of New York. It was a fraternal order that accepted both men and women as well as African Americans (in northern states), had ritual degrees, and promoted the total abstinence from alcohol.  For further information about early temperance groups see these previous posts.

One of the ledgers contains a printed copy of the Good Templars' Constitution. Article II, Section I, of this Constitution is the pledge which reads: "No member shall make, buy, sell, use, furnish, or cause to be furnished to others as a beverage, any Spirituous or Malt Liquors, Wine or Cider; and every member shall discountenance, in all proper ways, the manufacture, sale and use thereof." Each man or woman had a membership certificate that gave them clearance into the order. Nellie Dumars had been an officer of the Bowens Corners Lodge and signed her name to this certificate (below) in 1904.

Bowens Corners Lodge minutes from another ledger reveal that certain members, Seth Johnson (b. 1879) of Granby and Earl Worden (b.1882) of Volney had "broken their pledge on April 12, 1902 and admitted their guilt." At a meeting in May 16, 1902 members decided to table this issue while they A2012_44_1_DS_IOGT certificate_web versionconsulted Article VII of their Constitution which deals with offenses and trials. If Johnson and Worden drank alcohol then they were to be expelled and restored to the order only with a restoration ceremony in open lodge within four weeks of the admission of guilt. Later that summer according to the minutes, on June 6, 1902, Johnson and Worden were in fact expelled from the Bowens Corners Lodge. One can speculate, perhaps, how difficult these two men found it to stop drinking.

Suggested Further Reading:

Bernard, Joel Charles.  From Theodicy to Ideology:  the Origins of the American Temperance Movement. Ann Arbor, MI:  UMI Dissertation, 1983.

Fahey, David M. "How the Good Templars Began:  Fraternal Temperance in New York State", Social History of Alcohol Review, Nos. 38-39 (1999), p. 17-27.

Fahey, David M.  Temperance and Racisim:  John Bull, Johnny Reb, and the Good Templars. Lexington, KY:  University Press of Kentucky, 1996.


Collection of Independent Order of Good Templars Ledgers, Bowens Corners, Oswego County, New York, 1902-1908. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A2012/44/1a-g.




“The Bible and the People”: A Temperance Story

The Bible and the People No. 1Here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, we’ve got a soft spot for temperance organizations. Most of the material in the collection related to this subject has to do with groups like the Sons of Temperance—which at one point in the 1850s claimed more members than Freemasonry—or the Independent Order of Good Templars, but we also hold material related to the temperance movement in general.

This includes an example of British temperance propaganda, a mid-1800s folio of colored lithographs called, The Bible and the People.  The publisher, Dean and Son of 35 Threadneedle Street, London, described the work as: “A series of plates with descriptions showing the Inestimable Benefits of the Bible, and its great power as a means of effecting present and lasting good.” The publication, with lithographs by an artist named F. Robinson, may have been inspired by the wildly popular and much duplicated eight-part 1847 series, “The Bottle,” by British artist George Cruikshank (1792-1878).

The Bible and the People No. 2In four plates The Bible and the People tells the story of the respectable Brown family. They are brought low by the bad choices of a weak-willed husband and father but are eventually redeemed through the offices of a visiting missionary, hard work and frugality. The first, and perhaps most charming plate, shows the Brown family in their parlor as they are preparing for tea. A violet and yellow carpet decorates the comfortable room, replete with a cat on the hearth rug, a filled bookcase and table covered with a snowy cloth. At the center of the image, Henry Brown is being lured out of the cozy scene to go “make a merry night of it” with a colleague instead of staying home with his wife and children.

The Bible and the People No. 3The next illustration shows the family greatly reduced.  Henry lost his job and has become, through going out, “careless in person, and idle and dissolute in manners….” Much of the Browns' furniture is gone, presumed sold to support the family. The floors are bare and ragged laundry hangs to dry in the room. An untidy Henry sleeps in the bed while the children and an exhausted Mrs. Brown listen to a visitor reading to them from the Bible.

Plate number three marks the turnaround. In the center of the image, Henry, arm raised, is swearing, “…upon the Book of Salvation, to reform and lead a new life.” The artist shows the family, including the dog and cat, thanking heaven for this change. The final image portrays the “steady, sober, and industrious” Henry with his family on a path near a church, walking from shadow to sun. They greet the local minister, who compliments Henry on his conversion and on his “family’s cleanly and decent appearance.”

The Bible and the People No. 4The Bible and the People folio offers a softer version than other visual narratives treating the evils of drink from the time.  In contrast, Cruikshank’s The Bottle tells a remorseless tale of addiction, death, violence and eventual insanity. Cruikshank’s work may have inspired and influenced The Bible and the People but Robinson’s illustrations with Dean and Son's story suggest a cautiously happy ending for those who sober up.


Patricia M. Tice, Altered States: Alcohol and Other Drugs in America. Rochester, New York: The Strong Museum, 1992, pp. 21-40.


The Bible and the People, ca. 1850.  F. Robinson, lithographer, Dean and Son, publisher, London, England. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 74.2.33a-d.

Happy New Year!

95_061_5DS1 RESIZED I imagine that, over the next few days, many of our readers will be tipping a glass to the arrival of 2011 – a glass filled with some kind of alcoholic beverage – just as I will. When I set out to write this blog post, I started with a search of the National Heritage Museum collections database, looking for objects associated with New Year’s Day. I ended up settling on this photograph, in part because I enjoyed the irony: we think that the woman was a member of the Independent Order of Good Templars (IOGT), a temperance organization that believed in total abstinence and no license (to sell alcohol).

Unfortunately, we do not know her name, but her IOGT membership was important enough to her that she chose to be photographed – rather formally – in her fraternal collar. On the back of the photo, someone, possibly the sitter, has written “Happy New Year” and signed it with initials. 95_061_5DS2 DETAIL

The IOGT formed in 1850, branching off from the Knights of Jericho, an all-male temperance group in Utica, New York. The Good Templars decided to admit women because it was thought that they would “increase the power of this order for good.” The group grew steadily. By 1907, they numbered 350,000 members in the United States and were also active in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. To learn more about earlier temperance groups, see these previous posts.

So, allow me to be the first to wish a happy new year to all of our subscribers and readers, whether you prefer to toast with champagne or soda water. We look forward to many more blog posts, as well as your comments, in 2011.

A programming note…

Starting next week (January 2011), we will post once each week on Tuesdays. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to our blog.  Just click on the link at top left – it’s easy! And, don’t hesitate to make a comment or ask a question. We love to hear from you!

Reference: Albert Stevens, The Cyclopedia of Fraternities, New York: E.B. Treat and Company, 1907.

Unidentified Woman, 1880-1890, American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 95.061.5.

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