Anti-Saloon League

One of the most intensive propaganda campaigns ever in America was that of the Anti-Saloon League, founded in 1875.

"Word went out from Washington and state headquarters to send letters, telegrams, and petitions to Congressmen and Senators in Washington. They rolled in by tens of thousands, burying Congress like an avalanche... We started off, early in 1914, with about 20,000 speakers, mostly volunteers all over the United States. They spoke at every opportunity to every sort of gathering... As the climax approached we doubled our forces. Even that wasn't enough, so for a time the world's largest prohibition printing establishment ran three shifts a day, every hour of the twentyfour, grinding out dry literature." As the result of these efforts the drys gained seats in the 1914 elections." 1

A printing press was obtained in 1909 and the League up until the early part of 1923 produced,[JAC]

  • 157 million copies of temperance papers,
  • 2 million books,
  • 5 million pamphlets,
  • 114 million leaflets,
  • 2 million window placards and
  • 18 million small cards.
  • At the height of the campaign, from the printing headquarters, a river of 40 tons of anti-alcohol material poured every month.

    First of all note the time span, 34 years to getting a printing press and 14 years of publishing.

    Propaganda of this nature not conducted by a government controlling the media and reversing the sentiments of most people for a short time will take great effort. We know the results, a tremendous body of legislation passed leading up to the prohibition amendment of 1920. It was finally abolished in 1933 not due in any significance to the efforts of the Committee Against the 18th Amendment. It was abolished because it brought in bootlegging and organised crime, racketeering. Its administration was expensive and ineffectual. It resulted in wide spread disrespect for the law. In fact it failed because it ran counter to modern trends.

    So while it may be true that in the long term it is not possible for propaganda to reverse trends. The above results show clearly what is possible. They also show that although the trend was against the propaganda it succeeded in carrying out the objective of the propaganda. It was only once the objective had been achieved and the campaign stopped, that progress was made against it. Not for the reasons and actions of the anti-propaganda but the results of incredibly poor legislation against the desires of the population.

    Once again note the time span for reason to prevail. 10 years from the time the printing press stopped. 13 years from final legislation.


    [JAC]: Techniques of Persuasion - JAC Brown. Penguin Books.


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