Alcohol and Drinking History in America: A Chronology

Temperance Movement Grows

1870s. By the 1870s, the temperance movement exerted great influence in American life and culture, as this example illustrates.

In the Currier and Ives print of 1848, George Washington bid farewell to his officers with a toast in his hand and a supply of liquor on the table.

George Washington toasts

Reflecting the power of the temperance movement, a re-engraved version in 1876 removed all evidence of alcohol. Gone is the glass from Washington's hand and the liquor supply is replaced with a hat.1

George Washington empty handed

1870.

1871.

The fact that Jesus drank wine caused a severe problem for temperance writers, who insisted that drinking was a sin. Their solution was to argue that Jesus drank grape juice instead than wine.6

1872.

The WCTU’s Department of Scientific Temperance taught as scientifically proved fact that

  • The majority of beer drinkers die from dropsy. (An old term for edema, or swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water.)
  • [Alcohol] turns the blood to water.
  • [Referring to invalids.] A man who never drinks liquor will get well, where a drinking man would surely die.9

1873-1874. The Woman’s Crusade began in Hillsboro, Ohio, the day after Boston minister Dr. Diocletian Lewis gave a lecture on temperance in the small town. The next day, Eliza Thompson (“Mother Thompson’) led 70 women from a local church to the saloons. “Every day they visited the saloons and the drug stores where  liquor was sold. They prayed on sawdust floors or, being denied entrance, knelt on snowy pavements before the doorways, until almost all the sellers capitulated."10 The Crusade spread quickly and one enthusiastic writer asserted that "In fifty days it (the Crusade) drove the liquor traffic, horse, foot, and dragoons, out of two hundred and fifty towns and villages, increased by one hundred percent the attendance at church and  decreased that at the criminal courts in like proportion."11 The Crusades ended during the spring of 1874, but inspired many women across the country to become directly involved in the temperance movement. 12

Beer was pasteurized years before milk benefitted from the process.13

1873.

1874.

1875. The Whiskey Ring was broken. It was a group of Treasury Department officials, politicians, and distillers who successfully conspired to evade federal liquor taxes. The taxes were sometimes as high as eight times the price of the liquor itself. Treasury Department officials pressured distillers to join a conspiracy to avoid the high taxes. “Some distillers participated readily in giving illegal kickbacks in lieu of the tax, while those who hesitated were charged with technical violations of the law until they agreed to cooperate.” One hundred and ten people were subsequently convicted of crimes.18

1876. Beer was first pasteurized.19

1877.

1879.

1880s.

1880.

1881. It was discovered that French grape vines grafted onto American rootstock resisted the the deadly phylloxera parasite. By the end of the century most French vines were grafted onto American rootstock and today virtually all vineyards around the world are grafted onto American rootstock.32

1882. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) began a successful campaign, under the direction of Mary H. Hunt, to require anti-alcohol education in every state in the U.S. as well as its territories and possessions. 33

1883. The World Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was organized by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. It, like the WCTU, still exists. 34

1884. The WCTU sent a representative on a trip around the world promoting the establishment of World Woman’s Christian Temperance organizations in all countries.35

1885. Dakota Territory approved prohibition by a vote of 15,570 to 15,337.36

1886.

1887. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld enforcement of a newly enacted state prohibition law that did not compensate brewers whose property could no longer be used for their intended purpose and subsequently lost most of their value.. It was a major victory for prohibitionists.40

1888.

1889. The Pabst Brewing Company began in Milwaukee as the Best Brewing Company. 43

Up Next: The Guilded Age

Resources

  • 1. Prohibition: The Noble Experiment. https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/FunFacts/Prohibition.html
  • 2. Regan, Gary and Regan, Mardee Maidin. The Book of Bourbon and other Fine American Whiskeys. Shelburn, VT: Firefly Books, 1995, chapter 1 reprinted on Distilled Spirits Council website. discus.org/heritage/spirits/#23
  • 3. Blumberg, L. The American Association for the Study and Cure of Inebriety. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 1978, 2(3), 235-240; Weiner, Barbara, and White, William. The Journal of Inebriety (1876-1914): history, topical analysis, and photographic images. Addiction, 2007, 102, 15-23.
  • 4. Stevenson, Tom. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. London: DK, 3rd ed., 2005, p. 507.
  • 5. Bland, Joan. Hibernian Crusade: the Story of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1951; The Catholic encyclopedia. NY: Robert Appleton Co., 1912; Gibbs, Joseph C. History of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America. Penn Printing House, 1907.
  • 6. Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture, and Control. Westport, Ct: Praeger, 1995, ch. 3.
  • 7. Nachel, Marty. Beer for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books worldwide, 1996, p. 311.
  • 8. Nelson, Katherine. The Knights of Father Matthew. In (Jack Blocker, D. Fahey, I. Tyrrel, Eds.) Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.
  • 9. Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1973, p. 143.
  • 10. Tyler, Helen E., Where Prayer and Purpose Meet, cited in Crusades. Woman’s Christian Temperance Union website. wctu.org/crusades.html
  • 11. Gordon, E.P., Women  Torchbearers, cited in Crusades. Woman’s Christian Temperance Union website. wctu.org/crusades.html
  • 12. Eastman, Mary F. The Biography of Dio Lewis. NY: Fowler & Wells, 1891; Diocletian Lewis (Dr. Dio Lewis) https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/Controversies/Biography-Diocletian-Lewis.html
  • 13. Holsinger, V.H. et al. Milk pasteurization and safety: a brief history and update. Revue Scientifique et Technique (International Office of Epizlootics), 1997, 16(2), 441-451.
  • 14. The History of the WCTU. WCTU website. wctu.org/history.html; Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/Controversies/Womans-Christian-Temperance-Union.html.
  • 15. History of American Beer. Beer Advocate website. com/beer/101/history_american_beer
  • 16. Regan, Gary and Regan, Mardee Maidin. The Book of Bourbon and other Fine American Whiskeys. Shelburn, VT: Firefly Books, 1995, chapter 1 reprinted on Distilled Spirits Council website. discus.org/heritage/spirits/#23
  • 17. Nachel, Marty. Beer for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books worldwide, 1996, p. 311.
  • 18. Probe Away! New York Times website. nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/harp/0318.html
  • 19. Ford, Gene. Wines, Brews, & Spirits. 4th ed. Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA: Gene Ford Publications and the Wine Appreciation Guild, 1996, p. 17.
  • 20. First Lady: Lucy Hayes. National First Ladies’ Library website. firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=
  • 21. History of American Beer. Beer Advocate website. com/beer/101/history_american_beer
  • 23. “Alcoholism is a Disease and I can cure It”: Dr. Keeley’s Gold Cure. http://www.soberforever.net/addictionblog/index.php/alcoholism-is-a-disease-and-i-can-cure-it-dr-keeleys-gold-cure/#more-665
  • 24. National Prohibition of Alcohol in the United States. https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/Controversies/1091124904.html
  • 25. Arkansas, National Prohibition, and Repeal. https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/Controversies/20081119143126.html
  • 26. Stevenson, Tom. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. London: DK, 3rd ed., 2005, p. 519.
  • 27. Stevenson, Tom. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. London: DK, 3rd ed., 2005, p. 471.
  • 28. Billings, John S. Physiological Aspects of the Liquor Problem: Investigations Made by and Under the Direction of John 0. Atwater, John S. Billings and Others. Sub-Committee of the Committee of Fifty to Investigate the Liquor Problem. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1903, p. 22.
  • 29. Stevenson, Tom. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. London: DK, 3rd ed., 2005, p. 527.
  • 30. The History of Kansas Liquor Laws. Uncork Kansas website. uncorkkansas.com/the-law-explained/the-history-of-kansas-liquor-laws/
  • 31. Asimov, Isaac (ed.) Isaac Asimovs Book of Facts. New York: Wings Books, 1979, p. 313.
  • 32. Taber, George M. Judgment of Paris. California vs. France and the historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine. New York: Scribner, 2005, p. 23; Historic Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 and other Historic Competitions. https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/Controversies/20060517115643.html
  • 33. Mezvinsky, Norton. Scientific temperance instruction in the schools. History of Education Quarterly, 1961, 7, 48-56; Mary H. Hunt. https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/Controversies/Biography-Mary-H-Hunt.html.
  • 34. The World Woman’s Christian Temperance Union website. .wwctu.com
  • 35. Cherrington, Ernest H. The Evolution of Prohibition In The United States of America. Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press, 1920, p. 220-221.
  • 36. Cherrington, Ernest H. The Evolution of Prohibition In The United States of America. Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press, 1920, p. 223.
  • 37. Blocker, Jr., Jack S., et al. Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003, xxxi-xiv.
  • 38. Mary H. Hunt biography. https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/Controversies/Biography-Mary-H-Hunt.html
  • 39. History of American Beer. Beer Advocate website. com/beer/101/history_american_beer
  • 40. Freyer, Tony. Mugler v Kansas, 123 U.S. 623 (1887). In: Hall, Kermit L. (ed.) The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. 2nd. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 654.
  • 41. Nachel, Marty. Beer for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books worldwide, 1996, p. 311.
  • 42. In Memoriam: Clinton B. Fisk, December 8, 1828-July 9, 1890. New York: Funk & Wagnall, 1890;Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture: Clinton Bowen Fisk (1828-1890) (tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=F019).
  • 43. Nachel, Marty. Beer for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books worldwide, 1996, p. 311.

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