Westerville’s Anti-Saloon League Museum

Written by on July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized, Westerville - No comments

Don’t drink up, Columbus.

At least, that was the rallying cry of some nearly a century ago, as is monumentalized at the Anti-Saloon League in Uptown Westerville.

Westerville was one of the largest hubs for making and distributing anti-alcohol material throughout prohibition and at its height produced over 40 tons of mail per month. This made Westerville “The Dry Capital of the World” during the Temperance Movement and during most of the 20th century. All the tons of anti-alcohol mail being produced led to Westerville becoming the smallest community in the country with a first-class post office. Currently Westerville holds the largest temperance reference library in the world.

Throughout the museum is a treasure of information, old advertisements and artifacts from 1893-1933, as well as one of the best historians available to answer any of your questions. As you walk through this historic house-now-museum, you get a sense for what the Temperance Movement was like – you can picture everybody furiously working to put out the latest anti-alcohol flyer, brochure, poster, and working diligently to spread the word about the evils of alcohol.

But the Anti-Saloon League wasn’t just sitting back and producing anti-alcohol advertisements to send across the country. They also travelled long distances to spread the word on the evils of alcohol. Within Westerville, a local businessman, Henry Corbin, challenged the Anti-Saloon League and hence started Westerville’s “The Whiskey Wars.” This war eventually ended with both of Corbin’s saloons being dynamited. Men named Ernest Cherrington, Howard Russell & William “Pussyfoot” Johnson led this crusade in Westerville and across the nation. Throughout their coast-to-coast campaign, they collected 5 million pledges of abstinence. These men had a cause in which they strongly believed.

Throughout the museum, you read pamphlets that scream at you with pictures of death and dying due to alcohol, and bold headlines stating: “One Death from Alcohol Every 8 Minutes” and “Wine Drinking School Children Did Poorer Work than Abstainers.” Walking through the Anti-Saloon League Museum, you are put into that time period of prohibition and it’s easy to see that through shocking advertisements alone, people were swayed and conflicted. Add to that the powerhouse combination of the men and volunteers that started the League and the roads they traveled to get the word out. No wonder prohibition lasted as long as it did!

“The Liquor Evil from A to Z” is in copied paper form that you can take with you as you leave the museum. Here is a sampling of A through L:

  • Arms more villains.
  • Breaks more laws.
  • Corrupts more officials.
  • Destroys more homes.
  • Engulfs more fortunes.
  • Fills more jails.
  • Grows more gray hairs.
  • Harrows more hearts.
  • Incites more crime.
  • Jeopardizes more lives.
  • Kindles more strife.
  • Lacerates more feelings.

After learning so much about Westerville and the giant part it played in The Temperance Movement, my husband and I naturally celebrated by enjoying a nice, cold beverage up the street, which, thankfully, is legal.

The Anti-Saloon League Museum is located in front of the Westerville Public Library at 126 S. State Street and is open Monday-Saturday 9am-6pm and closed Sunday. Also available by appointment or scheduled tour. http://westervillelibrary.org/AntiSaloon

This is a guest post by Jessica Porter. Jess writes Twenty Dollar Dates, a blog about affordable & creative dating in Columbus. You can find more $20 date ideas at twentydollardates.com, including the “drinks” part of her Anti-Saloon League date.

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