The temperance movement in the U.S. needed grassroots support. But it also needed leaders who could effectively build, mobilize, and lead that support. The temperance leaders on this page excelled. The list of major leaders is followed by one of notable leaders.
Temperance leaders were often fascinating and colorful people. They were flesh and blood humans. They had their their goals and achievements. And they also had their failures, eccentricities and moral weaknesses. You might be surprised at what you find.
I. Major Leaders
II. Notable Leaders
I. Major American Temperance Leaders
Anderson, William H.
William H. Anderson was one of the most successful lobbyists of the the Anti-Saloon League. Anderson was highly anti-Semitic, anti-Irish, and anti-German. But his favorite target of hostility was Catholicism. He effectively used prejudice to promote pronibition. Learn more about William H. Anderson.
Anthony, Susan B.
Susan B. Anthony was a famous feminist and prohibitionist. Her name known by almost everyone. But how did sarsaparilla greatly promote the temperance work of Susan B. Anthony?
Purly Baker was head of the powerful Anti-Saloon League. He despised both brewers and Germans. Most brewers were German-Americans. Baker wrote that Germans “eat like gluttons and drink like swine.” Read more about Purley Baker.
“A sucker born every minute”
P.T. Barnum, the circus owner, saw alcohol as a great curse. As a result, he devoted much time to promoting prohibition. The great P.T. Barnum was very creative in advanced his beliefs about alcohol. Learn how how advanced prohibition at P.T. Barnum.
Barr, Daisy Douglas
Daisy Douglas Barr was leader of the Indiana Women’s Ku Klux Klan (WKKK) in the early 1920s. She was also an active member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Daisy Douglas Barr‘s life was truly fascinating.
Evangeline Booth led the Salvation Army. It strongly promoted and defended Prohibition. She argued that drinking was a “masculine indulgence” that harmed women. Learn the surprising irony of Evangeline Booth‘s belief.
Brehm, Marie C.
Marie Carolyn Brehm was the first female candidate to run legally for the vice-presidency of the U.S. She did so on the ticket of the Prohibition Party. Find out the highly unusual legal first name of Marie C. Brehm. Hint: It’s not Marie.
Brookhart, Smith Wildman
Smith Wildman Brookhart was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1926. He was known there as a ‘”fervent dry.” Until the end of his life, long after Repeal, Smith Wildman Brookhart insisted that “liquor is a poison and drinking it is a crime.”
Cannon, Jr., Bishop James
Powerful Ant-Saloon League leader Wayne Wheeler died in 1927. Then Bishop James Cannon, Jr., emerged as the most powerful of American temperance leaders. He was chair of the Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals. But Bishop James Cannon, Jr. failed morally. Scandals, including a sexual one, led to his disgrace and downfall.
Cogswell, Dr. Henry D.
Dr. Henry Cogswell believed that if people had access to cool drinking water they wouldn’t drink alcohol. So his dream was to build one drinking fountain for every 100 saloons across the U.S. And he built many of them. Learn more about the eccentric Dr. Henry D. Cogswell.
Editor and Writer
Ernest Cherrington was a leading temperance journalist. He became active in the Anti-Saloon League. There he became editor of its publishing house. It was the American Issue Publishing Company. But he was also a leader in many other temperance groups. Ernest Cherrington was one of the major US temperance leaders.
Colvin, D. Leigh
D. Leigh Colvin was the Prohibition Party‘s candidate for president in 1936. Colvin was intolerant of those who opposed Prohibition. He nothing good to say about members of the Women’s Organization for Prohibition Reform (WONPR). They were “Bacchantian maidens, parching for wine. Women who… would take pennies off the eyes of the dead for the sake of legalizing booze.” Discover more about D. Leigh Colvin.
Mamie Colvin was president of the National WCTU. She was also repeatedly the Prohibition Party candidate for various public offices. The politically-oriented Mamie Colvin was important to the cause. (She was married to D. Leigh Colvin.)
Davis, Edith Smith
Edith Smith Davis was a major temperance leader. And both nationally and internationally. She was known for her outstanding work for temperance. Edith Smith Davis also received an honorary doctorate from Lawrence University in 1907.
Delavan, Edward C.
Edward C. Delavan was a very wealthy businessman. And he was very generous with his money and time in promoting temperance. See how Edward C. Delavan went about doing it.
Dodge, Earl F.
Longtime leader of the Prohibition Party, Earl F. Dodge was unseated as Chair of the Party. He allegedly stole property, was dishonest with members, misused Party funds, and wouldn’t share financial information with the Party treasurer. Those, among other problems. Did he really admit to being a kleptomaniac? Find out more about the controversial Earl Dodge.
Neal Dow played a major role in promoting prohibition. Under his leadership, the Main Law was passed in 1851. It prohibited making or selling any form of alcoholic beverage. Alcohol could only be legally made and sold for industrial or medicinal purposes. Learn more about the pioneering Neal Dow.
Evans, Hiram Wesley
Hiram Wesley Evans was leader of the “second” Ku Klux Klan (KKK) from 1922 until 1939. He was a staunch supporter and defender of Prohibition. Learn about how Hiram Wesley Evans and the KKK worked with the WCTU. They were partners in Prohibition.
Hobson, Richmond Pearson
Richmond Hobson was the most highly paid of the over 2,000 public speakers of the Anti-Saloon League. His gift of oratory was highly valued by the League. His membership in Congress gave him great political clout. Find out more about Richmond Pearson Hobson.
Mary H. Hunt, became one of the most powerful of all temperance leaders in the U.S. It is clear that “by the time of her death in 1906, Mary Hunt had shaken and changed the world of education.” It was with her scientific temperance instruction. Or was it “institutionalized prohibitionist propaganda.” Learn more about the highly successful Mary Hunt. To find out the big secret she took to her grave, visit Scientific Temperance Federation.
Johnson, William E.
William E. Johnson was much better known as “Pussyfoot Johnson.” Pussyfoot was a leader of the Anti-Saloon League. He seemed proud of the many dishonest things he did to promote prohibition. That actually helped make him one of the most effective of American temperance leaders. Learn more about the lies of the proudly dishonest “Pussyfoot Johnson.”
Diocletian Lewis was commonly known as Dr. Dio Lewis. (Although he was not a doctor, he illegally practiced medicine.) Dio Lewis was a temperance leader, preacher, feminist, and social reformer. He was also a food health faddist and eccentric. Interested? Visit “Dr.” Diocletian Lewis.
Caroline Merrick was a “lady who can make the WCTU a success.” And she did so in the volatile city of New Orleans. That’s according to Frances Willard. She soon became president of the national WCTU. Learn more about Caroline Merrick.
Nation, Carry (also known as Carrie Nation)
Carry Nation was one of the most colorful and best-known members of the WCTU. (She liked the implication of her name, Carry A. Nation.) Discover more about the eccentric Carrie Nation and her “hatchetations.”
Russell, Howard Hyde
Howard Hyde Russell was the founder of the powerful Anti-Saloon League. He also established the Lincoln-Lee Legion to promote the signing of life-long temperance pledges by children.
Lillian Sedwick was a leader of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK). She was also the state leader of the Indiana WCTU. Learn more about Lillian Sedwick.
Sewall, Dr. Thomas
Dr. Thomas Sewall is little-known for his conviction on multiple counts of grave robbing. But he’s well-known for his graphic drawings of “alcohol diseased stomachs.” They were widely used to promote temperance. Learn more about the grave robbing Dr. Thomas Sewall.
Shuler, Robert P.
The Prohibition Party candidate who received the highest vote in any election in U.S. history was Rev. Robert P. Shuler. Learn why his nickname of “Fightin’ Bob Shuler”was so well-deserved.
Stewart, Gideon T.
Gideon T. Stewart was a major force in the early temperance movement. He was one of the founders of the Prohibition Party. He then became its candidate for many offices. That included the vice-president of the U.S.
Stoddard, Cora F.
Cora F. Stoddard was an important temperance and prohibition leader who headed the Scientific Temperance Federation. She developed its “Education on Wheels” project. It took temperance education directly to people at their homes and farms. Learn the big secret behind the group headed by Cora Stoddard.
William “Billy” Sunday was first famous as a professional baseball player. He then became the famous evangelist who preached temperance. He said that whiskey and beer are all right in their place, but their place is in hell.” Billy Sunday was once a household name.
Eliza Thompson and her “Visitation Bands” helped revitalize the temperance movement. She is often known as “Mother Thompson.” Learn what was so brave about Eliza Thompson.
Volstead, Andrew John
Andrew Volstead is known as “The Father of Prohibition.” He sponsored and facilitated congressional passage of the National Prohibition Act. It’s better known as the Volstead Act. The bill was largely written by Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League. Was Andrew Volstead an ardent prohibitionist? Or merely a compliant politician? You might be surprised at what you discover about Andrew Volstead.
Wayne Wheeler was known as the “dry boss.” He was one of the most powerful of all U.S. temperance leaders. He developed what is now known as pressure politics. It’s also called Wheelerism.
After his death, he was criticized for his “alignment with avowed racial and religious bigots and groups. His advocacy of illegal actions in enforcing prohibition. His deceptive practice of writing self-aggrandizing articles that he asked others to publish as their own. And is caustic, alienating personality.” Find more about Wayne Wheeler
Frances Willard is one of the few American temperance leaders whose name is widely-known. Here’s a chance to find out what you didn’t know about Frances Willard.
Wilson, Clarence True
Clarence True Wilson was a leading and highly influential Prohibition leader. He devoted virtually his entire life to the cause. Learn more about why Clarence True Wilson has been called “America’s Number One Dry.”
II. Notable U.S Temperance Leaders
Cary, Samuel Fenton
Samuel Fenton Cary served in Congress from Ohio shortly after the Civil War. He became well-known nationally as a prohibition author and lecturer. Cary, North Carolina, is named in his honor.
William Daniel became a Maryland lawyer in 1851. Upon election to the state legislature in 1857, he promoted local option laws. Mr. Daniel became president of the Maryland Temperance Alliance when it was formed in 1872. He also served as chair of the 1884 national convention of the Prohibition Party. It elected him to serve as its vice-presidential candidate in the 1884 election.
Faris, Herman P.
Herman P. Faris was born in 1858 and became a banker in Missouri. He was treasurer of the Prohibition National Committee for many years. Faris was twice the Party candidate for governor of Missouri. In 1924 he was the Party’s candidate for president.
Fisk, Clinton B.
General Clinton B. Fisk was a temperance leader. He was the Prohibition Party‘s presidential candidate in 1888. He won 249,506 votes. That was one of the best results of any candidate in Party’s history. Fisk University is named in his honor.
Hamblen, Carl Stuart
Carl Stuart Hamblen became radio’s first singing cowboy in 1926. He composed music and acted in movies with other stars. They included Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and John Wayne. Hamblen was the Prohibition Party’s candidate for president in 1952.
Another John Brown (and related to the first)
Hammond, John Brown
John Brown Hammond believed in direct and even violent action. He wrecked a speakeasy much in the style of Carry Nation. But he came to pursue non-violent actions. He worked through the WCTU, the Bone Dry League, and the World Purity Federation. While in a nursing home, he worked to organize “The Eighteenth Amendment Rescue Association.”
Holtwick, Enoch A.
Enoch A. Holtwick was the Prohibition Party candidate for Illinois State Treasurer in 1936. He was its candidate for U.S. Senator from Illinois in 1938, 1940, 1942, 1944, 1948 and 1950. And also its candidate for vice-president in 1952. And Holtwick was its candidate for president in 1956.
Attorney Hale Johnson was “one of the most effective, prominent and influential” prohibitionists in the country. In 1896 he was the Prohibition Party candidate for governor of Illinois. Later that year he was the Party’s candidate for vice-president. He campaigned in over 30 states.
Joshua Levering joined the Prohibition Party in 1884. He was chair of the state Prohibition Conventions of 1887 and 1893. He was also a delegate to the national conventions of 1888 and 1892. Levering was the presidential candidate of the Party in 1896. As such, he won 132,007 votes.
A Committed Prohibitionist
Munn, E. Harold.
E. Harold Munn’s served the Prohibition Party many times. He ran for state and local offices in Michigan. Three times (1964, 1968, 1972) he ran for president. He was also chair of the Prohibition National Committee from 1955 to 1971. At the time of his death in 1992 he was president of the National Prohibition Foundation.
Smith, Green Clay
Green Clay Smith, a Major General in the United States Army, was a supporter of temperance. He was the presidential candidate of the Prohibition Party in 1876.
Watson, Claude A.
Claude A. Watson was the Prohibition Party candidate for vice-president in 1936. He was also the Party’s presidential candidate in both 1944 and 1948. A pilot, Claude Watson flew his own airplane over 16,000 miles campaigning.
- Actually, Prohibition Was a Success.
- Asbury, H. The Great Illusion. An Informal History.
- Burnham, J. New perspectives on the prohibition “experiment” of the 1920’s. J Soc Hist, 2(1), 51-68.
- Cashman, S. Prohibition. The Lie of the Land.
- Dorr, L. Why Prohibition Failed.
- Furnas, J. The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum.
- Kobler, J. Ardent Spirits.
- Krout, J. The Origins of Prohibition.
- Miron, J., and Zwiebel, J. Alcohol Consumption During Prohibition.
- Prohibition Was Not an Awful Flop.
- Tyrrell, I. The US Prohibition experiment: myths, history and implications. Addict., 92, 1405-9.
- Yes, Prohibition worked – In terms of reducing alcohol consumption.
- At this point you now much more about temperance leaders than most people.
- Do you know the name of a leader you think should be listed? If so, please contact hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/. And thank you!