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 – the ASL’s behind-the-scenes political power manipulator – 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...
References: Behr, Edward. Prohibition: thirteen years that changed America. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1996.
Clifford Engs, Ruth. The Progressive Era 's Health Reform Movement: A Historical Dictionary. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2003
Hamm, Richard F. Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment: temperance reform, legal culture, and the polity 1880-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995
The Anti-Saloon League 1893-1933. Westerville Public Library. February 16, 2008
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