Ever heard of the Anti-Saloon League?

I passed this sign on Jones Street in San Francisco one day and took a photo of it.

A major force in American politics until Prohibition was repealed back in the 1930s, the Anti-Saloon League was instrumental in building support for temperance.

The organization started in 1893 in Ohio, and soon fanned out across the U.S. Initial efforts were focused on shutting down saloons. The leaders of the movement reasoned that if alcohol was not readily available, Americans would find a more wholesome way to entertain themselves. Over time, this idea gave way to a new conclusion that people were unaware of the evils of alcohol and the real need was educational.

The Anti-Saloon League led a major effort that included persuasion, propaganda, lobbying, and social pressure, all designed to discourage drinking alcohol. There were years of public campaigns to tie consumption of alcohol to insanity, unemployment, crime, and mortality.

These moral crusaders were prolific! In addition to speeches and parades, the League published songs, dramas, magazines, and more. The following images are from the Anti-Saloon Museum, which is housed in Westerville Library in Westerville, Ohio.

The first two images have very noticeable marital discord themes:

image from Anti-Saloon League
image from Anti-Saloon League
image from Anti-Saloon League

Eventually, the Anti-Saloon League determined that their success would always be limited, as long as alcohol was legal. They became focused on putting temperance-minded politicians in office.

In 1919, the long-term efforts of the League finally paid off: the 18th Amendment – Prohibition – was ratified. The manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcohol was banned in the United States.

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The word propaganda is considered to be negative: it suggests lying, exaggeration, and manipulation. But if propaganda can be defined as spreading information to support a cause, then it could be a good thing.

Almost every country and organization uses some kind of propaganda. The U.S. began to use domestic propaganda in an organized way during World War One. Generally speaking, the goal was to use patriotism to gain support for the war. More specifically, the government wanted soldiers to enlist, and for the civilian population to conserve food and buy war bonds.

You might recognize this very famous image that was introduced on the July 6, 1916 issue of Leslie’s Weekly, nine months before the United States entered the Great War:

Library of Congress

 

Propaganda in art is typically done to elicit an emotional response, as this poster does:

 

While the image of a motherly woman imploring you to save food does elicit a warm emotion, negative emotions can be useful propaganda, too. This 1918 image features a huge gorilla wading out of the water, onto American shores. In the distance, Europe lies in ruins. The gorilla is wearing a pickelhaube (that’s the spiked helmet Germans wore during World War One). He is carrying an unconscious woman, and carrying a bloody club labelled Kultur.

Library of Congress

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