Sons of Temperance: A Temperance Brotherhood

The Sons of Temperance was a brotherhood of men who promoted temperance and mutual support. It spread rapidly throughout the U.S. during the 1840s. It was the best known fraternal temperance group at that time. But its membership was secret. Brothers’ names were not publicly revealed. This protected the group. It would have been embarrassing if a brother were seen violating its codes of conduct. It also protected brothers from any negative consequences of membership.

Sons of TemperanceThe group’s three goals were these.

1. To shield brothers from the evils of intemperance.
2. To provide help in times of sickness or death.
3. To raise the character of brothers.

Becoming a brother was not easy. Nor was it inexpensive. To become a brother, a man had to be nominated by an existing brother. Then three other brothers would investigate him. They needed to see if they thought he was worthy. The Sons of Temperance had an initiation fee of two dollars. This was expensive. It was equal to a typical worker’s weekly incomer. The weekly fee was six cents.

The Sons of Temperance was also a mutual insurance company. It paid $30.00 to the family of each brother who died. It paid $15.00 to the family of each brother whose wife died.

Brothers were required to visit any sick brother at least once a day. Any brothers who were ill were identified at each meeting of the brotherhood.

The Sons of Temperance spread rapidly during the 1840s. It had over 5,000 chapters in the U.S., England, Ireland, and Australia.

Sources

Blocker, J.S., et al. Alcohol and Temperance. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003.

Gusfield, J.R. Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement.  Urbana: U. of Illinois Press, 1963.

Kobler, J. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of  Prohibition.  NY: Putnam’s Sons, 1973.

Longmate, N. The Waterdrinkers: A History of Temperance.  London: Hamilton, 1968.