Prohibition Party – The Oldest Third Party in U.S.


I.   Background: Prohibition           Party

II.  Early Years

III. Later Years

IV.  Internal Conflict

V.   Future Uncertain

VI.  Historic Election Results

VII. Resources

I. Background of the Prohibition Party

The Prohibition Party of the United States began in 1869. Before the Civil War (1861-1865) temperance groups had promoted voluntary abstinence from alcoholic beverages. The  War diverted national attention to more pressing matters. Subsequently, the temperance movement wayned.

Moral suasion had proved to be both difficult and frustrating. So after the War, temperance groups began calling for the government to prohibit the production and drinking of alcohol.

II. Early Years

The Prohibition Party found early success in pressuring towns and counties to enact prohibition laws. Prohibition groups such as the Anti-Saloon League were non-partisan. Therefore, they supported dry (pro-prohibition) candidates regardless of party affiliation. But the Prohibition Party ran candidates on its own ticket.

The KKK’s strongly supported and defended National Prohibition. Visit The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), Alcohol, & Prohibition.

However, the Party’s electoral success in getting candidates into office was modest. Sidney J. Cattts, who was blatantly racist and anti-Catholic, became governor of Florida in 1916. That’s the highest office ever achieved by a Prohibition Party candidate.

Beginning in 1914, California voters elected Charles H. Randall to the U.S. House of Representatives. He ran for three successive terms on the Prohibition Party ticket. In his first re-election campaign in 1916, he successfully ran as the candidate of the Party. Also, he ran as the candidate of the Democratic, Republican, and Progressive parties. In so doing, he defeated a candidate running as an independent.

Prohibition Party
Susanna M. Salter

Susanna Salter

Susanna M. Salter, the first woman mayor in the U.S., won on the Prohibition Party ticket. The only successful Prohibition Party candidate in the 21st century has been the tax assessor of Thompson Township in Pennsylvania. However, he ran unopposed.

After the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) went into effect in 1920, the Prohibition Party pressed for its strict enforcement. However, problems created by National Prohibition grew ever more serious as it contributed to burgeoning organized crime; gangsterism; political corruption; bootlegging even within the halls of Congress; violence, blindness and deaths caused by illegally produced alcohol; law enforcement corruption; disrespect for law, and binge drinking.

Popular support for Prohibition collapsed after the mid-1920s and Repeal Groups grew quickly. And by 1932 the platform of the Democratic party contained an anti-Prohibition plank.

Women’s Rights

Also learn about these other Party candidates

Marie C. Brehm 

Ben Bubar

Rolland Fisher

Robert P. Shuler (Highest Vote-Getter)

Gideon T. Stewart (Also a Founder)

Aaron Watkins

Claude A. Watson  

Throughout its long history, the Prohibition Party has championed women’s equality. For example, at its first convention in 1869, women enjoyed full voting and other delegate rights. Thus, they were the first to have that distinction in any U.S. political party.

The Party platform of 1872 called for women’s voting rights. This was about a half century before that goal was achieved nationally. Also, in its platform of 1892, it called for equal pay for equal work.

Women achieved voting rights nationally in 1920. Promptly, the Party nominated women for office at the national, state, and local levels. Marie Brehm became the first nominee of any party for vice-president.

Decades before the Party existed, Henry Clay said “I’d rather be right than President.” After the Party realized it could never elect a President, it adopted the following song.

I’d rather be right than President, I want my conscience clear;

I’ll firmly stand for the truth and right, I have God to fear.

I’ll work and vote as I pray – no matter what the scoffers say –

I’d rather be right than President, I want my conscious clear.

III. Later Years

Following Repeal in 1933, the Prohibition Party began its long decline. It has run a candidate for the presidency of the U.S. in every election since 1872. However, the number of votes its candidates have received have dropped precipitously. For example, the votes for its major candidates were 270,770 in 1892. After Repeal, they were down to 103,489 in 1948. They dropped to 23,266 in 1964, and 5,617 in 2016.  And it was as low as 140 in 2004.

The Party briefly changed its name to the National Statesman Party in 1977 (it changed it back in 1980). However, the name change didn’t impress Time magazine. It wrote it “‘doubtful’ that the name change would ‘hoist the party out of the category of a political oddity.'”

Prohibition Party
Prohibition Party symbol

The declining fortunes of the Prohibition Party are obvious in the venues of its conventions over time. In the early years they were in impressive large places.  They included the opera house in Columbus (OH), the Exposition Hall in Pittsburgh, and the First Regiment Armory in Chicago. In later years, the locations have been much more modest. They included a motel in Birmingham (AL) and in a private living room in Lakewood (CO). Now the Party doesn’t hold conventions. Instead, it uses conference calls to select candidates.

IV. Internal Conflict

The Prohibition National Committee is the governing body of the Prohibition Party. A faction of that body operated what it claimed was the official web site of the PNC at That website no longer exists.

A majority group operates another site ( It asserts that it represents the Prohibition National Committee. In making its claim, the majority group states that

All actions of the private, invitational meeting of selected Prohibition National Committee members, held last June, held at Lakewood, Colorado, were declared null and void by an absolute majority of PNC members, meeting at Fairfield Glade, Tennessee on 5-6 September 2003.

It states that

prohibition party
Earl Dodge

An alleged “2003 nominating convention” of the Prohibition Party was held at the Chairman’s home in Lakewood, Colorado on June 12-13, 2003. Some members of the National Committee were not notified in advance that the meeting was being held. Others were told by Chairman Earl F. Dodge that they would not be admitted. Eight people were present: Chairman Dodge, his two daughters, and five other members supportive of Dodge. In addition to failing to observe the By-Laws requirement for prior notification, there was not a quorum.

Members alleged that Dodge had misused Party funds, kept secrets from party members, and stole property from party members. These and other problems led to the party split.

In the 2004 election, the majority faction ran Gene Amondson as its presidential candidate. But Earl Dodge died in 2007. So Amondson was the sole Prohibition Party candidate for that office in 2008. Currently, the Party is not split.

V. Future Uncertain

With the death of Amondson in 2009, the future of the Prohibition Party remains uncertain. However, the Party has continued to nominate candidates for President and Vice-President.

Also, other components of the Prohibition Party organizational structure continue. They are the Prohibition National Committee, National Prohibition Foundation, the Partisan Prohibition Historical Society, the Action! Prohibitionists’ caucus, and all state and local affiliates.

In spite of the clear failure of Prohibition, many people and organizations today support neo-prohibition ideas and strongly defend the numerous vestiges of Prohibition that still exist. Indeed, almost one in five adults currently supports prohibiting the consumption of alcohol. Surprisingly, not even National Prohibition outlawed drinking alcohol.

VI. Historic Election Results

Year Presidential nominee VP nominee Votes
1872 James Black PA John Russell MI 2,100
1876 Green Clay Smith KY Gideon T. Stewart OH 6,743
1880 Neal Dow ME Henry A. Thompson OH 9,674
1884 John P. St. John KS William Daniel MD 147,520
1888 Clinton B. Fisk NJ John A. Brooks MO 249,813
1892 John Bidwell CA James B. Cranfill TX 270,770
1896 Joshua Levering MD Hale Johnson IL 125,072
Charles E. Bentley NE James H. Southgate NC 19,363
1900 John G. Woolley IL Henry B. Metcalf RI 209,004
Donelson Caffery LA (declined);
Edward M. Emerson MA
Archibald M. Howe MA 342
1904 Silas C. Swallow PA George W. Carroll TX 258,596
1908 Eugene W. Chafin IL Aaron S. Watkins OH 252,821
1912 Eugene W. Chafin IL Aaron S. Watkins OH 207,972
1916 J. Frank Hanly IN Ira Landrith TN 221,030
1920 Aaron Watkins OH D. Leigh Colvin NY 188,685
1924 Herman P. Faris MO Marie C. Brehm CA 54,833
1928 William F. Varney NY James A. Edgerton 20,095
Herbert Hoover CA Charles Curtis KS 14,394
1932 William D. Upshaw GA Frank S. Regan IL 81,916
1936 D. Leigh Colvin NY Alvin York TN (declined);
Claude A. Watson CA
1940 Roger W. Babson MA Edgar V. Moorman IL 58,743
1944 Claude A. Watson CA Floyd C. Carrier MD (withdrew);
Andrew Johnson KY
1948 Claude A. Watson CA Dale H. Learn PA 103,489
1952 Stuart Hamblen CA Enoch A. Holtwick IL 73,413
1956 Enoch A. Holtwick IL Herbert C. Holdridge CA (withdrew);
Edwin M. Cooper CA
1960 Rutherford Decker MO E. Harold Munn MI 46,193
1964 E. Harold Munn MI Mark R. Shaw MA 23,266
1968 E. Harold Munn MI Rolland E. Fisher KS 14,915
1972 E. Harold Munn MI Marshall E. Uncapher KS 12,818
1976 Benjamin C. Bubar ME Earl F. Dodge CO 15,934
1980 Benjamin C. Bubar ME Earl F. Dodge CO 7,212
1984 Earl Dodge CO Warren C. Martin KS 4,242
1988 Earl Dodge CO George Ormsby PA 8,002
1992 Earl Dodge CO George Ormsby PA 935
1996 Earl Dodge CO Rachel Bubar Kelly 1,298
2000 Earl Dodge CO W. Dean Watkins AZ 208
2004 Gene Amondson WA Leroy Pletten MI 1,944
Earl Dodge CO Howard Lydick TX 140
2008 Gene Amondson WA Leroy Pletten MI 643
2012 Jack Fellman WV Toby Davis MI 518
2016 James Hedges PA Bill Bayes MI 5,617

V. Resources: Prohibition Party