Items on display:

  • Wine bottle corker, 1885
  • Frances Willard Chromolithograph, 1890s
  • Time Magazine Volstead, 1926
  • Carry A. Nation book, 1905
  • Black and White Budget Illustrated Weekly
  • Photo of Carrie Nation, 1900
  • The Anti Prohibition Manual, 1916
  • Women’s Temperance Publishing Association Catalogue, 1901
  • Diningroom P.R. Hot Springs Hotel postcard
  • Hot Springs Hotel exterior postcard
  • Hot Springs Hotel exterior postcard
  • Old Poodle Dog (San Francisco) menu, 1917
  • Diningroom Old Poodle Dog postcard, 1908
  • Postcard Loyal Temperance Legion ..boys & girls in red, white, and blue
  • Sample of W.C.T.U. pledge card for abstinence
  • Diningroom wall at Coppa’s Restaurant in SFO postcard, 1933
  • Demley’s corkscrew, 1930s
  • Flauter’s corkscrew, 1932
  • Schuchardt’s corkscrew, 1935
  • Syroco’s corkscrew, wood-like, 1940-1950
  • Syroco’s corkscrew,painted, 1940-1950
  • Zinfandel bottle, early, 1887
  • Angelica bottle, early, 1908

The Prohibition exhibit, Temperance, Teetotalers, and Taboo is currently on display at the El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society. The exhibit contains some very interesting items from the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County collections.

Temperance means restraint, self-control and moderation. Temperance is generally understood as civil behavior. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, incivility was being vilified. Much of that incivility was blamed on alcohol. In time, temperance was equated with the prohibition of alcohol and with it the restoration of civil behavior.

On first forming, temperance groups urged moderation in drinking. But eventually, the temperance groups sought to outlaw alcohol entirely. To most people of the time, the word temperance came to mean not indulging in alcohol at all. The meaning of the word had changed.

The temperance movement organized persistently during the decades leading up to the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Temperance in America demanded complete abstinence in the use of “intoxicating” liquor.

Most temperance organizations wanted their followers to sign an abstinence pledge, committing them to total abstinence. Pledgers took pride in placing a “T” for total after their signatures. They were soon known as “T”eetotalers.

Abstinence and temperance morphed into the solution for all social ills. State prohibition laws became more prevalent during the mid-nineteenth century. Many of these laws were soon repealed. This provoked temperance organizations to pivot to public education and political action. In this manner they began to push their moral beliefs into their campaigns against alcohol.

At the end of the nineteenth century, women provided much of the organizing labor for these temperance organizations. At the same time, they advanced suffragist topics and progressive ideas. Some temperance advocates worked inside organizations while some worked alone.

A famous lithograph titled Woman’s Holy War by Currier & Ives, circa 1874, illustrates the metamorphosis in the temperance movement. It is a picture of a woman in armor, riding a horse, carrying an axe over her head as the central focus. There are others behind her also opening barrels of wine and liquors, rum, brandy, gin, whisky, beer, and doing all this “in the name of God and humanity.”

Ultimately society considered all alcohol taboo. All of the publications, education, and legislation against consumption of alcohol had the cumulative effect of making alcohol naughty. The prohibition of the once socially acceptable custom of drinking alcohol was legislated away as a protective measure by the United States government through the Eighteenth Amendment and the National Prohibition Act of 1920 (known commonly as the Volstead Act).

The El Paso de Robles Area Historical Society is located in the Carnegie Library, City Park, downtown Paso Robles, California. Open Tuesday & Thursday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Closed Monday & Wednesday and major holidays.

UPDATE
Please note the following from their website:
“In an abundance of caution for our visitors and volunteers, the Carnegie Historic Library will be closed from Sunday, March 15th through Wednesday, April 1st. Opening will be reassessed as situations develop. We thank you for your understanding and wish all continued good health at this time.”