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Last updated:27 September 2016

Sons of Temperance material

May 2016 - Sons of Temperance material (to coincide with the Library event Salford's Sarsaparilla Sounds)

In the 1800s trade union meetings were usually held in pubs, and the ‘tramping routes’ of different trades can still sometimes be gleaned from inn names relating to those trades.  During industrial disputes some publicans sided with their customers, even contributing to strike funds.

The pub was also the local news centre, and literate workers read newspapers there which they could never have bought for themselves – the illiterate could hear them read aloud by hired readers, perhaps with added commentary.

Some people however started to question the role played by alcohol in working class poverty, as well as in domestic violence. In the 19th century and on into much of the 20th century, casual labourers who for example worked on a building site would often be paid in the following way. A group of men would be employed by a “ganger” who was usually one of their number. Come pay day the “ganger” would be paid by the employer with a “big note” (£5). In order to pay the individual members of his gang he would “break” the note at the bar of a public house, which could start a round of drinking that ate into the men’s wages.

Son of Temperance front pageOrganisations such as The Order of Sons of Temperance (founded in 1842 in New York City and introduced into the United Kingdom in 1849) were set up to combat the perceived problems of over-reliance on drink. The Library holds a collection of Sons of Temperance material.

19th century temperance reformers were often active too in anti-slavery campaigns and peace and penal reform movements.  Chartist Henry Vincent, who believed that Chartists needed to concentrate on the "mental and moral improvement" of working people, attempted to link the Chartist movement with the Temperance Society and helped form several teetotal political societies.

There were also women involved in temperance work – ‘the very act of joining a teetotal society involved a modest form of feminism: the belief that resources should be diverted from purely male pleasures to expenditure which could benefit the whole family’, states Brian Harrison in Drink and the Victorians [shelfmark A32 here in the Library].

A temperance bar is a type of bar, found particularly during the 19th and early 20th century, that did not serve alcoholic beverages. Temperance bars were the first outlet for Vimto!

Temperance bars with full ‘temperance licenses’ (allowing them to open on a Sunday despite strict trading laws) were once common in many high streets in the North of England. Today, however, Fitzpatrick's Herbal Health in Rawtenstall is thought to be the last original temperance bar.

The bars quite often asked their customers to sign a pledge of temperance, meaning that they would abstain from drinking intoxicating liquors.