Contenders

Anti-Saloon League of America

AKA: The League or ASLA

Founded: December 1895 by Rev. Howard Hyde Russell

 

In December 1895, the Anti-Saloon League of America, a temperance organization, was established in Washington, D.C. The League was founded to encourage anti-alcohol public sentiment, enforce state-level alcohol prohibition, and enact more anti-alcohol legislation. Rev. Howard Hyde Russell was elected to serve as the first leader of the ASLA. The organization’s motto was “The saloon must go” and all their efforts focused on that singular goal.

The League was based on interdenominational religious networks to promote and spread the ASLA message and also to raise funds.

By 1907, the League was well-established nationally and began publishing a monthly newsletter in support of the prohibition of alcohol. By 1913 the ASLA understood that a Constitutional Amendment would be the best way to focus their efforts and as a result became involved in politics.

While the group was committed to a non-partisan approach, they worked with politicians of all types that supported prohibition. For example, if there were anti-alcohol candidates competing for the same position, the ASLA would remain neutral; however, if one candidate was “dry” and the other “moist” or “wet,” the League would endorse and support the “dry” candidate. In the case where all runners were “wet” or “moist,” the ASLA frequently would try to find its own representative to run as a “dry”. Their efforts paid off and by the 1914 elections, many new “dry” supporters were in Congress.

The ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment was the crowning victory for “dry” organizations nationally, and the League rightfully believed itself to be an integral part of its success. However, the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment (and the Eighteenth Amendment’s subsequent repeal) were large blows to the ASLA. In a radio interview with Rev. Russell, the first leader of the League, he offered this response to the turn of events. He said, "This is no dry funeral; only a period of mistaken public opinion, warped and twisted by the conspiracy of a ‘refuge of lies,' of false propaganda and political party duress... the question is What shall drys do next?... If we cannot get the whole loaf, we accept a half loaf, a slice, crust or crumb...".

From 1933 to 1950, the League remained quiet, having lost its political influence with the repeal of Prohibition. In 1950 the League joined up with the National Temperance League and had remained a part since then.

 

 

Sources:

"Anti-Saloon League." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 19 Nov. 2007 < http://www.bri tannica.com>.

Anti-Saloon League: History. Westerville Public Library, Westerville, OH. 17 Nov 2007 <http://www.westervillelibrary.org/AntiSaloon/history/history.html>.

 

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