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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain the different reforms aimed at improving the health of the human body
  • Describe the various factions and concerns within the temperance movement

Antebellum reform efforts aimed at perfecting the spiritual and social worlds of individuals, and as an outgrowth of those concerns, some reformers moved in the direction of ensuring the health of American citizens. Many Americans viewed drunkenness as a major national problem, and the battle against alcohol and the many problems associated with it led many to join the temperance movement. Other reformers offered plans to increase physical well-being, instituting plans designed to restore vigor. Still others celebrated new sciences that would unlock the mysteries of human behavior and, by doing so, advance American civilization.


According to many antebellum reformers, intemperance (drunkenness) stood as the most troubling problem in the United States, one that eroded morality, Christianity, and played a starring role in corrupting American democracy. Americans consumed huge quantities of liquor in the early 1800s, including gin, whiskey, rum, and brandy. Indeed, scholars agree that the rate of consumption of these drinks during the first three decades of the 1800s reached levels that have never been equaled in American history.

A variety of reformers created organizations devoted to temperance    , that is, moderation or self-restraint. Each of these organizations had its own distinct orientation and target audience. The earliest ones were formed in the 1810s in New England. The Massachusetts Society for the Suppression of Intemperance and the Connecticut Society for the Reformation of Morals were both formed in 1813. Protestant ministers led both organizations, which enjoyed support from New Englanders who clung to the ideals of the Federalist Party and later the Whigs. These early temperance societies called on individuals to lead pious lives and avoid sin, including the sin of overindulging in alcohol. They called not for the eradication of drinking but for a more restrained and genteel style of imbibing.

The drunkard’s progress

This 1840 temperance illustration ( [link] ) charts the path of destruction for those who drink. The step-by-step progression reads:

Step 1. A glass with a friend.
Step 2. A glass to keep the cold out.
Step 3. A glass too much.
Step 4. Drunk and riotous.
Step 5. The summit attained. Jolly companions. A confirmed drunkard.
Step 6. Poverty and disease.
Step 7. Forsaken by Friends.
Step 8. Desperation and crime.
Step 9. Death by suicide.

An illustration, The Drunkards Progress. From the First Glass to the Grave, shows a staircase that rises on one side and descends on the other. A scene of a drinking man is depicted on each step, with text describing his progressive downfall through drink: Step 1. A glass with a friend. Step 2. A glass to keep the cold out. Step 3. A glass too much. Step 4. Drunk and riotous. Step 5. The summit attained. Jolly companions. A confirmed drunkard. Step 6. Poverty and disease. Step 7. Forsaken by Friends. Step 8. Desperation and crime. Step 9. Death by suicide.” At the bottom is an illustration of a woman with her face in her hand, leading her child from their home.
This 1846 image, The Drunkards Progress. From the First Glass to the Grave , by Nathaniel Currier, shows the destruction that prohibitionists thought could result from drinking alcoholic beverages.

Who do you think was the intended audience for this engraving? How do you think different audiences (children, drinkers, nondrinkers) would react to the story it tells? Do you think it is an effective piece of propaganda? Why or why not?

Questions & Answers

who was the fists empire in americans
Alex Reply
who organized the most massive attack in American History, which caused the Germans to begin to retreat in September 1918?
Jmora Reply
Is there answers anywhere to all of the critical thinking questions?
Heather Reply
What were the direct causes of the civil war
Trinity Reply
How did slavery issues effect the war
How were politics involved
north wanted to unify the south
south wanted independence
freeing slaves was just a way to recruit black soldiers to fight for north
Lincoln couldn't let the south separate from the union , agriculture was way to valuable
progressive reforms under Theodore Roosevelt
Karpi Reply
what was the main thing suposed to happen when the tea party
Gavin Reply
Which plan resolved the issue of representation for the U.S. Constitution?
Nichole Reply
The plan which became known as the seventeenth amendmet.
amendmet because not an article of bill of rights.
Which of the primary features of grassroots Progressivism was the most essential to the continued growth
Ren Reply
The institution of a steady currency.
who invented the comedy movie without soun
Sami Reply
Comedy in film ad early as 1895 in film by Louis Lumier. Utilized slapstick.
Louis Lumier
Comedy in film as early as late 1895, there were no film adds because pictures could not be paired or arranged with words, quotes, or small phrases. Utilized slapstick.
which of the following is not one of the tasks women performed during the revolution?
Donna Reply
Women were gen not involved in politics or combat
Women were generally not involved in combat, but went inside the lines however and worked as nurses
Which country etablished the first colonies in the americas
Alex Reply
which part of the America's? what year?
Jamestown = England. if I had to guess that's the one you are looking for
Spain. area of new Mexico I think.
the first encounter with Americans in this te Indian was Christopher Columbus from spain bt he not establish a colony and the first colony was Britain in Jamestown I think
Spain, first settlement was La Navidad est on Columbus' first voyage and which was destroyed by natives by 1493. on subsequent voyages of Columbus and others, Spain colonized Carribean islands such as Cuba.
Spain its colonies would become known as new-spain.
in what ways did westward expansion provide new opportunities for women and african americans?\
cavausier Reply
Women were involved in establishing communities. They did a lot of work in turning roughboomtowns into more civilized places that had all the benefits of such. The West was characterized by greater freedom for women e.g. women were first granted suffrage in Wyoming and other Western states.
Women were involved in establishing new communities within the States'. They helped men turn rough boomtown into a more modern version of civilization for the westerners moving the expansion forward. These communities later provided jobs for Afro-Americans after the civil war.
[.../e.g Suffrage for women was first was granted in The West in Wyoming and other Western states]
It was not a lot of work for them their forefathers all the work actually
What source did the Roman Catholic church have
robbie Reply
Please clarify: do you mean what sources do they made their authority on?
They established their authority in administering their mission in a last ditch effort to convert native Americans to christianity
yes, what sources? sources of domesticating the Native Americans.
part 1 and part 2 in 2 segments
impact of coming of Portuguese in kenya
Brian Reply
impact of coming of portuguese
impact of coming of portuguese
introduced new crops, disrupted local trade and communication, introduced Christianity but had limited success converting locals
The coming of the Portuguese impacted farming, farmbills caused non-levys in trade, miscommunication in the two governments and our United States Enviormental Protection Agency (USEPA).
What was the first problem that Franklin Roosevelt dealt with during his "First Hundred Days"?
Bryan Reply
The Great Depression
worst cover up! they should feel dumb! they we're trapped in, on both sides of the East and West borders of the Islamic forces, Columbus was desperate and started voyage due to the events of his time!
The Banking Crisis
a better word for Columbus is "determined" not "desperate."

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Source:  OpenStax, U.s. history. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11740/1.3
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