Patrick Bryant, Ben Cramer, Clayton Randolph, Samuel Reel

The period of 1857-1907 can be described as both the infancy of Wabash College and that of the national temperance movement. The two most prominent organizations in the temperance movement were the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League.

By comparison, the WCTU was more religiously-driven than the Anti-Saloon League, and gave way to other social movements for women, including suffrage. The WCTU was established in the 1870s and the political participation of women proved to be a sign of progressivism as much as it was an example of members’ strong religious beliefs.

The Anti Saloon League, founded roughly two decades after the WCTU, sought to close saloons and public houses that sold alcohol. One of their main goals was to prevent the political corruption and graft that came from those establishments. The ASL was known for its level of organization and model that was far less grassroots than the WCTU.

Indiana was a major player in the temperance and prohibition movements. Two years prior to the first volume of The Wabash magazine in 1857, the Indiana state legislature passed a statewide prohibition of the manufacture and sale of spirits. The Indiana Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional three years later, but this only marked the beginning of a long battle over alcohol. During the Civil War, state Republicans were in support of local option laws that allowed cities and towns to make their own ordinances. At the turn of the century, many interest groups favoring national prohibition—including the Anti-Saloon League—emerged as leaders in Indiana.

In Montgomery County, Wabash College took the lead in addressing alcohol use, including the economic, moral, and legal complexities it presented. The first temperance movement locally took place in 1832, the same year as the College’s founding. In Dr. Ted Gronert’s local history, Sugar Creek Saga, we learned that officials from local churches, public schools, and Wabash College supported “a county-wide campaign to abolish the saloon and public house” at that time. During 1857-1907, many students and professors voiced their opinion on alcohol, usually casting a dark shadow over its use and existence. Although this may not have represented everyone on campus at the time, it does shed light on how important the issue was in the years leading up to a national prohibition in 1919.

Rev. Charles White, D.D.

"Rev. Charles White, D.D.,"
The Wabash Magazine, December 1861

Rev. Charles White was Wabash College’s second president, serving from 1841 until his death twenty years later. In his obituary, Wabash faculty member J.L. Camp listed among White’s accomplishments, a list of essays and publications one in particular that addressed temperance societies. This is the earliest known reference to alcohol or temperance in The Wabash magazine. Many of the other references to temperance are from the students perspectives. White’s essay supports local history that says this was a cause that local clergy and administrators of the College played an integral role in leading.

Prohibition of College Secret Societies

"Prohibition of
College Secret Societies,"

Wabash Magazine, March 1870

This paper shows the relevance of the progression of the temperance movement through the eyes of a Wabash Student from the 1870’s, Julius A. Coleman. Around this point in history was the start of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement. Although, he views the movement with an interesting twist. He talks about the relevance of the Temperance movement within Fraternities. This shows the importance of Fraternities and what they stand for on campus during the 1870s.


Wabash Magazine, March 1870

The author, A. Wesley Bill, wrote about the economics of alcohol in their time period, as well as the evils it presented. He believed that the ingredients used, such as wheat, could be used to make bread and other nourishments. He also mentioned the money being spent to make the alcohol, as well as buy the alcohol, could have been spent on other more productive ventures. This money could be spent on the well-being for the peoples’ children and themselves.

Locals (excerpt)

from the "Locals" section,
Wabash Magazine, April 1895

This news brief in the Locals section describes the discovery of a half-bottle "of what's commonly referred to as beer" at the scene of some local crime and the possibility that Pinkerton agents would investigate it. Known infamously for the massacre at the Homestead Strike at Andrew Carnegie’s steel mill, the presence of Pinkerton Agents would have been a big event locally. Although statewide prohibition was not in effect at this time, an account of Montgomery County at the time detailed crimes including alcohol as being among the most serious offenses. The threat of Pinkerton Agents provides further evidence crimes including alcohol were taken very seriously.

Locals (excerpt)

From the "Locals" section,
Wabash Magazine, May 1880

This 1880 news brief outlined Reverend Coulter's involvement with the Blue Ribbon Club, what is interpreted to be a local temperance society similar to the WCTU or ASL. Coulter’s arguments included religious, scientific, and legal arguments, all of which were common to temperance proponents at that time. The large crowd supports evidence that the temperance movement was significant in Montgomery County at this time.