American Society for the Promotion of Temperance / Society for the Promotion of Temperance / American Temperance Society

The establishment of the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance by Lyman Beecher and Rev. Justin Edwards in 1826 was the beginning of the first organized national temperance movement in the United States of America. It soon changed its name to the Society for the Promotion of Temperance and then to the American Temperance Society.

Edwards explained that the goal of the organization was to promote temperance (defined as drinking in moderation) while letting drunkards “die off and rid the world of ‘an amazing evil.’” He urged those of the “respectable classes” to serve as good role models and to used both logic and emotional appeals to promote temperance.

By 1834, only eight years after its founding, the Society had an estimated one million members in five thousand local chapters. Even if this estimate was high, the temperance movement was clearly very strong.

With the passage of time some members began to promote abstinence rather than moderation. In 1836, the American Temperance Society was merged into the new and more inclusive American Temperance Union, which decided to call for total abstinence from all alcoholic beverages.



  • Burns, Eric. The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2004.
  • Clark, Norman H. Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1976.
  • Furnas, J. C. The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1965.
  • Lender, Mark and Martin, James. Drinking in America: A History. New York: Free Press and London: Collier Macmillan, 1982.
  • One Hundred Years of Temperance. A Memorial Volume of the Centennial Temperance Conference Held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September, 1885. New York: National Temperance Society & Publication House, 1886.
  • The “Temperance” Archive. City University of New York Lost Museum website.
  • Tyrrell, Ian R. Sobering Up: From Temperance to Prohibition in Antebellum America, 1800-1860. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979.

Filed Under: Prohibition

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