The Lincoln-Lee Legion: Youths Pledged Alcohol Abstinence

Anti-Saloon League founder Howard Hyde Russell founded the Lincoln-Lee Legion in 1903. It was to promote the signing of total alcohol abstinence pledges by children.

lincoln-lee legion
The Rev. Howard Hyde Russell

The group was originally called the Lincoln Legion. But in 1912 it was renamed the Lincoln-Lee League. That was to make it more appealing to Southern children and their parents.

The Lincoln-Lee League’s three goals for members were these. (1) Abstaining from alcohol. (2) Promoting prohibition. (3) Being good church members.

Children who signed the pledge committed themselves to abstaining from alcohol for the rest of their lives. The pledge asserted that drinking alcohol “is productive of pauperism, degradation and crime….”1

Pledge signing drives were heavily promoted at churches and Sunday schools. Also at temperance meetings.

lincoln-lee legion
Frances Willard

Girls who signed the pledge were “Willards,” after Frances Willard of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Boys in the North were “Lincolns.” Boys in the South became “Lees.”

By 1925, over five million children had signed the total abstinence pledge cards.

The Lincoln-Lee Department was part of the Anti-Saloon League. It published a temperance magazine for those who had signed the pledge.  It was the Uncle Sam Advocate.

The Department also published the Lincoln-Lee Legion Patriots Scorebook. Meetings of the group used this booklet. It provided a history of the League, a “response service,” songs for use at meetings, and a behavioral scorecard.

Lincoln-Lee LegionMentors, called umpires, gave the pledge signers credit marks or scores. These were for such things as these.

    • Church attendance.
    • Abstinence from tobacco.
    • Recruiting new members.
    • Sunday school attendance.

The pledge concept is currently used by the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. But its pledge numbers dwarf those of the Lincoln-Lee Legion.

Lincoln-Lee Legion