Prohibition

We’re here to celebrate archives month with a few features on the holdings of the Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library. PBS is airing a new documentary on Prohibition. One of the first images you’ll see is from our collection, as shown above, of the first page of the first of Lyman Beecher’s Six Sermons on Intemperance. Beecher gets a lot of credit for starting the movement but his sermons, delivered in Litchfield in 1826, came some 37 years after the first Temperance Association was formed in Litchfield. Jedediah Strong, a local attorney who once showed great promise, became notorious for intemperance. Strong’s situation is supposed to have been the driving factor behind the organization of the first temperance society.  The organizers, including such notables as  Ephraim Kirby, Julius Deming, Benjamin Tallmadge, Uriah Tracy, Moses Seymour, Tapping Reeve, and John Allen, signed a temperance pledge that year.  Strong also signed, but his resolve lasted less than a year. In 1790 he became embroiled in a scandalous divorce case in which he was accused of drunkenly beating his wife (the daughter of Connecticut’s Secretary of State). It is interesting to note that Allen, a congressman who was instrumental in the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts, also violated his pledge and lost his wealth and business. Though Beecher left Litchfield the year he delivered his sermons, the temperance spirit remained. Other evidence of activity in this area can be found by searching our online finding aids, including the record book of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union from 1878.

 

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About Linda Hocking

I have been the Curator of Library & Archives at the Litchfield Historical Society since 2002. I also serve on the State Historical Records Advisory Board, as President of New England Archivists, and as newsletter editor for the Academy of Certified Archivists. I have been a certified archivist since 2005.

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