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Prior to the 19th century, the word temperance connoted moderation and restraint in appetites and behavior. Restraint, however, did not characterize America’s behavior. By 1830, the average American over 15 years old consumed nearly seven gallons of pure alcohol a year – three times as much as we drink today. 

During the first half of the 19th century, as drunkenness and its social consequences increased, temperance societies formed in Great Britain and the United States. These societies were typically religious groups that sponsored lectures and marches, sang songs, and published tracts that warned about the destructive consequences of alcohol.  Eventually these temperance societies began to promote the virtues of abstinence or “teetotalism.” They urged states and eventually the nation to embrace prohibition.

The Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol, was passed by Congress in 1917, ratified in 1919, and went into effect at 12:01 am on January 17, 1920. In 1933 the Twenty-First Amendment repealed the Eighteenth.

For further reading:

Temperance Movement, Social Welfare History Project

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union — (1874-Present), Social Welfare History Project

Music & Social Reform, Social Welfare History Project

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