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The Anti-Saloon League

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In May 1893 in Oberlin, Ohio a new American temperance organization was formed, the Ohio Anti-Saloon League. The same year a similar organization was founded in the nation's capital. The union of these two organizations formed the nucleus for the National Anti-Saloon League which was officially founded on December 18, 1895 in Washington, D.C. The name of this national organization was later changed to Anti-Saloon League of America and Howard Hyde Russell was named as the first national superintendent in 1903. (The Anti-Saloon League 1893-1933). The aims of the organization were to enforce the existing temperance laws, unite public anti-alcohol sentiment, as well as enact new anti-alcohol legislation. These goals may have differed somewhat from the other temperance organizations of the time but the league shared the fundamental goal of national prohibition. The core founders of the league felt that the moral standards of Americans were on the decline thus losing touch with religious values and violating God's desires by consuming alcohol.

Howard Hyde Russell, who was a congregational minister and a lawyer, is recognized as the founder of this organization. He was later replaced by Purley Baker who was well known for his superior leadership qualities. After Baker’s death in 1924, Edwin C. Dinwiddle took over and under his leadership the league opened a Legislative office in Washington DC. While Russell and Baker brought the prohibition message to the masses, “it was Wayne Wheeler вЂ" the ASL’s behind-the-scenes political power manipulator вЂ" who, more than any other Prohibitionist activist, engineered the political change”. (Behr 52). Wheeler was attributed to have lobbied for the league during 1916 elections where enough dry congressmen were elected in the House of Representatives to make the two thirds majority required for the 18th Amendment to pass. In 1919 he became legislative superintendent for the Anti-Saloon League and is largely responsible for helping to draft the 18th amendment.

The prohibition movement and the Anti-Saloon League in particular, were effective in developing propaganda persuading Americans to support the dry cause. The Anti-Saloon League opened its own publishing house, the American Issue Publishing Company, based in Westerville, Ohio. This firm was used as a medium to relay the League's messages and information to the Americans. During the League's heyday, the firm issued more than forty tons of anti-liquor publications every month. From 1893 to 1933, the Anti-Saloon League was a major force in American politics. Influencing the United States through its publications and lobbying, it turned a moral crusade into a Constitutional amendment. The league embarked on enforcement of legislation as well as punishing the lawbreakers at both state and national levels. (The Anti-Saloon League 1893-1933).

The Prohibition movements were widely spread across America in the 1800s. They were headed by religious groups who referred to alcohol and drunkenness as a “national curse”. For instance, in 1873 the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) advocated abolishing the trafficking of all alcohol. In 1900 the Anti-Saloon League joined the WCTU in its crusade to solve the liquor problem. “Baker and Wheeler guided the league to check the increasing power of the liquor traffic and close down the saloon through legal mechanisms .They made the league a powerful lobby force that drove the anti-saloon and prohibition movement which resulted in passage of the 18th amendment for national Prohibition and the Volstead Act”. (Clifford

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