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What Was the Anti-Saloon League?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Anti-Saloon League was an organization which lobbied for the prohibition of alcohol in the United States, ultimately becoming quite politically powerful. When Americans firmly voted to repeal Prohibition in 1933, the Anti-Saloon League and its policies fell out of favor, but the organization continued to work on alcohol-related issues. Today, it is known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems.

This group was founded in Oberlin, Ohio in 1893. Like other temperance groups, the Anti-Saloon League was founded by people who believed that the United States was in a state of moral decline, and that increased urbanization and alcohol consumption were responsible for this. By banning alcohol or severely restricting the types of alcohol which could be produced, these groups hoped to restore America's “moral fiber.” While the focus of temperance groups was on restriction or prohibition of alcohol, these groups often promoted social services as well.

Organizations such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union were actually older than the Anti-Saloon League, but the League quickly became extremely powerful, overshadowing older groups. This was primarily due to the way in which the League conducted its business: it focused on lobbying for prohibition at every level of government, with less interest in how politicians conducted their private affairs. The Anti-Saloon League also printed numerous books, pamphlets, and posters about the perils of alcohol, hoping to win converts in the general populace.

The success of the Anti-Saloon League varied, depending on the district. In some areas, the group was very successful, generating local restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol. In other regions, efforts by Anti-Saloon League members were rebuffed, but the organization thought it had gotten the last laugh in 1920 with the passage of the Volstead Act and the start of Prohibition.

As it turned out, you could ban the manufacture, transport, and sale of alcohol for human consumption in the United States, but you couldn't prevent Americans from drinking. Alcohol was smuggled in from Canada, manufactured in basements and backyard stills, and sold in the form of “medical tinctures.” While alcohol was sometimes difficult to obtain and occasionally dangerous to drink, most Americans were unwilling to give up drinking, and calls for the repeal of Prohibition ultimately succeeded in 1933, when the 21st Amendment was passed, reversing the Volstead Act and defeating the Anti-Saloon League's goal of temperance across the United States.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon165323 — On Apr 04, 2011

My fraternity now resides where Inez Crouse lived at 48 W. College Ave. I'm not sure she'd be happy about the beers that have passed through in recent history.

By anon114693 — On Sep 29, 2010

My great granmama was one one of the founders of the founders of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. She wrote in her journal about Inez! Tyler M., Middlebury, VT

By ebenasire — On Jul 23, 2009

My great grandmother, Inez Alexander Crouse was a founding member of the WCTU in Westerville, OHIO.

She was still alive when Repeal of Prohibition arrived in 1933. I arrived the same year, as did Hitler..

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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