Free Shipping. Entire Store. Always.

The History of the Temperance Movement in Pennsylvania

What was the Temperance Movement? When did it take place? And what is a Temperance Fountain? We’ll look at how Pennsylvania experienced its own Temperance Movement and what it entailed. Keep reading to learn more.

 Temperance Movement Beginnings

According to The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, the Temperance Movement started prior to the Civil War. Prohibition started to spread through multiple areas, but the brakes were put on and the forward motion halted with the war kicking in. What caused the Temperance Movement in the first place?

Many were concerned that public drunkenness, along with poor conduct due to alcohol consumption was tarnishing their communities. The 1830’s saw the beginning of a group push toward an alcohol-free lifestyle, though the Catholic Historical Research Center (CHRC) puts the date of the first temperance society at 1789, and lists Connecticut as it’s homeplace. Britannica lists it as starting around 1808 in New York.

Was alcohol good or bad? There were different opinions. In fact,

In late 17th century North America, alcohol was a vital part of colonial life as a beverage, medicine, and commodity for men, women, and children. Drinking was widely accepted and completely integrated into society; but drunkenness was not.”

Not everybody agreed.

What is a Temperance Fountain?

While the “…statues were not all well received by the communities where they were placed…”, the appearance of fountains was a means to offer pure water in place of liquor that would taint those who imbibed it. They were put in public locations as a way to make a drink for the “thirsty” easily accessible and free.
Now, of course these fountains weren’t the drinking fountains we’re used to today, but rather stone fountains. Here, you can see a photo of a fountain still standing in Lower Bucks County, PA.

These fountains were to help the “poor” make better choices and give them access to fresh clean water in place of beer and booze that were so popular.
According to the CHRC, “One of the largest events held by the CTAU (Catholic Total Abstinence Union) was the 1905 annual convention in Wilkes-Barre, PA when President Teddy Roosevelt spoke as the keynote to over 80,000 people.

Temperance Fountain in Reading, PA

Speaking of Pennsylvania, did you know that Reading, PA hosted the Prohibition Party convention in 1990? The event took place at a fountain that had been placed in 1911, and still stands. You can find it on the corner of Fifth Street and Penn Avenue. According to the signage applied to the fountain after a dedication, the water “flowed” at the fountain for 30 years. Due to traffic and road adjustments, its original installation was changed.

Temperance Fountain in Reading, PA

You can see more great images of a Temperance fountain in Reading, here.


Inscription on Temperance Fountain in Reading, PA

Another two fountains were set in Bethlehem, to help address thirsty steel workers back in 1918. They still stand today.

Temperance Fountain in Bethlehem, PA

An interesting facet that comes to light is that prior to the public water treated systems we have today, often water was filthy or foul tasting.

Muddied and bad tasting drinking water encouraged many Americans to drink alcohol for health purposes…

and, beer was sometimes safer than water at the time.

That made spirits and beer highly treasured and much preferred. While coffee and tea were options, they were pricey, and not a choice to drink abundantly. With the excess drinking came issues of lewd and uncomplimentary behavior, and some felt the drunken actions of many were unsavory and harmed their communities.

Temperance Fountain in Bethlehem, PA

So, agree or disagree with the movement, each side had compelling reasons to feel strongly. Some felt that it was simply safer to have beer over water, while others saw the actions that beer and liquor had on the community and felt that either moderation or abstinence was the only answer.

Influence of Temperance Movement

Today, you’ll still find the influence of the Temperance Movement. In fact, the Latter Day Saints mention alcohol along with tobacco and other items in their “Word of Wisdom” which scholars believe was stemmed from the movement. Though they don’t require total abstinence, it is still founded as a recommendation.

These ideas spread globally and have been cyclical. Today, a smaller part of the world embraces this movement, and generally it’s targeted toward education such as using warning labels to advocate safer health practices.

Another safe health practice is to properly bundle up in order to keep warm and drink plenty of fluids during the cold winter months .  The Pennsylvania T-Shirt Company makes that even easier by offering A Winter's Day bundle.  Get 15% off when you buy a sweatshirt and mug. Both Men's and Women's styles available.

Berks County Born and Raised Mug

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published