The Scientific Temperance Federation was formed in 1906 upon the death of Mary Hunt. She was a leader of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Hunt was head of the WCTU’s powerful Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction in Schools and Colleges.
Temperance textbooks needed Mary Hunt’s approval to be endorsed by the WCTU. And without that endorsement it was almost impossible to sell them.
Many people thought Hunt was making money in working on and approving the books. She strongly denied that charge.
Ms. Hunt devised a plan to conceal her enormous income. She signed over to charity the royalties from the sale of hundreds of thousands of textbooks sold annually. That, in addition to her profits from editing, revising, and even anonymously writing some of the books.
The charity Hunt selected was the Scientific Temperance Federation. That group consisted of Mary Hunt, her pastor, and a few friends. The goal of the Federation was to support the operation of the WCTU’s Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction. The national headquarters was a large house. It was also Hunt’s residence.
Scientific Temperance Federation Formed
These deceitful legal arrangements clouded ownership of her estate. This led to the creation of the Scientific Temperance Federation. Mary Hunt’s personal secretary, Cora Stoddard, headed the new organization.
Mary Hunt had amassed a substantial fortune from her supposedly “voluntary” work. This gave the Scientific Temperance Federation a very large endowment. It used it in a wide variety of activities to promote the temperance movement and prohibition.
The Scientific Temperance Federation had great success with a set of stereopticons it developed. These were three-dimensional visual images on the effects of alcohol. Actually, of alcohol abuse. The Federation introduced these in 1912 at an exhibit on Alcohol and Public Health presented. This was at the International Congress in Hygiene and Demography held in Washington, D.C.
A major nation-wide project of the Scientific Temperance Federation was an innovative “Education on Wheels” project. It took temperance education directly to people at their homes and farms.
The delivery system for Education of Wheels consisted of “A light express wagon. Twenty Scientific Temperance and home-made posters. Talking machine. Italian, Swedish, Polish and English talking machine records. Various dramatic representations of SCIENTIFIC temperance facts in the form of entertaining models, etc. A good supply of scientific temperance and no-license literature and buttons for children”(emphasis in original).
One member of the Scientific Temperance Federation explained how they operated. “We drove into fields, stopped in roads, backed into farm yards, up to back doors, sick-room windows. Anywhere, where folks tried to dodge us” (Brown, 1914).
“Merger” with the Temperance Education Foundation
The Education on Wheels project was very successful in reaching people with the message of temperance. Nevertheless, there were problems. They included the decline of temperance sentiment, the repeal of Prohibition, and the stock market crash of 1929. This led to the Federation joining with the Temperance Education Foundation in 1933. However, it maintained its separate identity and published temperance materials until at least 1968.
Legacy of the Scientific Temperance Federation
The efforts of the Federation were not entirely in vain. Today, almost one in five U.S. adults favors making drinking illegal for everyone. However, not even National prohibition outlawed alcohol consumption. Tens of millions more people support neo-prohibition ideas. And they strongly support the many vestiges of Prohibition that still exist.
- Berk, L. Temperance and Prohibition era propaganda: a study in rhetoric. Brown U Library.
- Brown, F. “Education on Wheels” with a Foreword by Cora Frances Stoddard. Westerville, OH: Am Issue, 1914. Pamphlet based on an article published in the Scientific Temperance Journal in May of 1914.
- Crothers, T. The Scientific Temperance Federation – a new movement. JAMA, 1907, XLIX(2), 157-158.
- Hanson, D. Alcohol Education. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996.
- The New York (City) Public Library holds records of the Federation. It includes both letters and printed materials. There is no restriction on public access to these materials.
- Science and education applied to the alcohol question. Report of the Secretary of the Scientific Temperance Federation. Reprinted from J Inebriety, Spring, 1908. Boston: The Federation, 1908.
- The effect of beer or wine on school children; also, A physician’s opinion of beer drinking. Boston: The Federation, 1935.
- A sample issue of the Scientific Temperance Journal (August, 1921) published by the Federation and the Temperance Education Foundation can be viewed on Google Books.
- Shall We Save Beer and Wine? Washington, International Reform Bureau, 191-.
- Stoddard, C. The Teacher’s Part in the Anti-alcohol Movement. Boston: The Federation, 1927.
- The Story of a Paying Investment. New Haven, CT: The Federation, 1927.
- Temperance and prohibition papers, including those of the Scientific Temperance Federation: 1870s-1960s. Ohio Historical Society. Majority of pre-1933 material available on 364 rolls of microfilm, cataloged as MIC 107. Microfilm available through interlibrary loan.
- Truth, I.B. The Triple Threat, Alcohol – Tobacco – Dope. Westerville, OH: The Federation, 1968.