The Lincoln-Lee Legion

The Lincoln-Lee Legion was established by Anti-Saloon League founder Howard Hyde Russell in 1903 to promote the signing of abstinence pledges by children. The organization was originally called the Lincoln League. However, in 1912 it was renamed the Lincoln-Lee League in order to make it more appealing to Southern children and their parents.

The three behavioral goals for members of the Lincoln-Lee League were abstaining from alcohol, promoting prohibition, and being good church members.

Children who signed the pledge committed themselves to abstaining from alcoholic beverages for the rest of their lives: "Whereas, the use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage is productive of pauperism, degradation and crime; and believing it our duty to discourage that which produces more evil than good, we therefore pledge ourselves to abstain from the use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage."

Pledge signing drives were heavily promoted at churches, Sunday schools, and temperance meetings. Girls who signed the pledge were called "Willards," after Frances Willard of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Boys in the North were called "Lincolns" and boys in the South became "Lees." By 1925, over five million children had signed the total abstinence pledge cards.

The Lincoln-Lee Department of the Anti-Saloon League published a temperance magazine, Uncle Sam Advocate, for young people who had signed the pledge of alcohol abstinence. It also published the Lincoln-Lee Legion Patriots Scorebook, which was a booklet used at meetings of the organization. It provided a history of the League, a "response service," songs for use at meetings, and a behavioral scorecard. Mentors, called umpires, gave the pledge signers credit marks or scores for such things as church attendance, abstinence from tobacco and alcohol, recruiting new members for the Lincoln-Lee League or for Sunday school attendance.

The pledge concept is currently used by the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, whose pledge numbers dwarf those of the Lincoln-Lee Legion.

Resources and Readings on the Lincoln-Lee Legion:

  • Anti-Saloon League. Lincoln-Lee Legion Department. The National Prohibition Lincoln-Lee Program Book. Westerville, OH: American Issue Publishing company, n.d.
  • Anti-Saloon League. Lincoln-Lee Legion Department. Uncle Sam Advocate. Westerville, OH: Lincoln-Lee League, 1923.
  • Arnold, Arthur F. Lincoln-Lee Legion Temperance Sunday Brochure. Westerville, OH: Lincoln-Lee Legion, 1917.
  • Engs, Ruth C. (ed.) The Progressive Era's Health Reform Movements. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003. Describes the Lincoln-Lee Legion.
  • Odegard, Peter H. Pressure Politics: The Story of the Anti-Saloon League. NY: Columbia University Press, 1928. Describes the Lincoln-Lee Legion.
  • Lincoln-Lee Legion. The American Bond Newsletter. Westerville, OH: American Bond, 1923-.

Filed Under: Prohibition