Temperance songs appeared regularly in all types of nineteenth-century popular songbooks. Supporters of the temperance movement believed poor health, poverty, crime and general moral degradation were the direct results of alcohol consumption. Temperance songs, poems and hymns often painted sensational and even dire scenarios of negligent, alcoholic fathers causing domestic strife. (In contrast, the Currier and Ives illustration to the right, The Fruits of Temperance, shows that the end result of temperance is a happy family.)
The earliest temperance groups were founded in Europe in the 18th century, but their influence soon spread, and the first American temperance society was formed in Saratoga, N.Y., in 1808. Some early temperance societies were proponents of moderation in alcohol consumption, but as the movement grew, total rejection of alcohol became the more accepted norm. Founded in Ohio in 1893, the Anti-Saloon League was one of the most effective temperance societies and lobbied for uncompromising federal enforcement of Prohibition (1919-1933).
Recordings and Sheet Music
Who'll Buy?, by James R. Murray; from The Pacific Glee Book (Cincinnati, 1869).
The temperance movement, as portrayed in "Who’ll Buy?," showed drinking as the cause of, rather than the response to, unfair economic realities. The results of drink were listed as "larceny and theft," "beggary and death," "empty pockets," "tangled brains," "vice," and "conscience slack."
Learn More About It
Hall, J. H. Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1914.
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