A spectacular chromolithographic temperance poster

Chromolithograph on coated stock, 50”h x 36 7/8”w at neat line plus title and margins. Backed with cloth and mounted on simple wooden rollers, the upper roller a replacement.

A spectacular chromolithographic poster illustrating the baneful effects of alcohol and tobacco, issued just as the Temperance movement was nearing its apogee.

This colorful piece of work is in essence a pictorial table, with four columns of images illustrating the exterior appearance and internal organs of, from left to right, “The Healthy,” “The moderate drinker,” “the chronic drunkard,” and a drinker far gone “in delirium.” The large scale and vivid chromolithography render many of the images both horrifying and memorable. Below these are, among other things, portraits of a “Healthy Boy” juxtaposed with a “Cigarette Smoker,” images showing the effects of tobacco use on the organs (including a particularly gnarly-looking tongue), and a lumberman apparently drinking his wages away after a day at work. At the very bottom are statistics related to alcohol use, along with an explanation of “Where many a Workingman’s money goes,” and the following gem from the world of “alternative facts:”

“Half the idiots in the world are the children of drunkards. More than half the insanity is due to alcohol, while it produces four out of every five of our paupers and nine out of every ten of the criminals with which our prisons are crowded, and the misery and wretchedness which it brings are not only upon those who use it, but upon their parents wives and children are beyond all calculation.”

This poster was issued in 1910, as the Temperance movement was reaching its height of influence in the United States. Note that the organs of even the moderate drinker showing signs of damage, such as “contracted or “hob nail” liver” and “bronchial cararrh,” implicitly denying the possibility of moderate, safe and enjoyable consumption of alcohol. This reflects the absolutist, pro-abstinence views of organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, views which ultimately led to the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1920.

The publisher is listed as J. F. Dreisbach & Co. of Kansas City. The only possible match I have found is one Joseph F. Dreisbach listed in the Kansas City Directory for 1911 and 1912. In both years his occupation is listed as “trav” (traveling salesman?), and in 1912 he is described as employed by the Von Engeln School Supply Co. Nowhere have I found mention of a J. F. Dreisbach & Co.

I have found another poster, under the title Hardacre’s Temperance Map Illustrating the Effect of Alcoholic Drinks and Narcotics on The Human System, published around 1903 by F.C. Hardacre of Vincennes, Indiana. That version is entirely similar in overall layout and text, but the individual images differ quite substantially. Both versions are extraordinarily rare: I find only two examples of the Hardacre version, at the Western Illinois Museum and New York City’s landmark James Brown House, and no institutional holdings of our version.

Not in OCLC.


Some soiling, with reinforcements to cracking and chipping, particularly in the lower 6”, with minor loss of image and still rather fragile.