A nation adrift “in the maelstrom of alcohol”

Henry William Blair, THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT: OR, THE CONFLICT BETWEEN MAN AND ALCOHOL. Boston: William E. Smythe Company, 1888.
4to. xxii,583pp plus folding map and numerous illustrations and portraits. Green cloth over boards. Some wear to binding, but very good.

A jeremiad against the evils of alcohol, with an interesting thematic map demonstrating its prevalence in New York City.

Born on a New Hampshire farm and orphaned at 12, Henry William Blair (1834-1920) never attended college but rose to become a lawyer, state representative, and U.S. congressman, then represented his home state in the Senate from 1879-1891. While there he proposed the first bill for national Prohibition and wrote The Temperance Movement: Or, the Conflict Between Man and Alcohol. After leaving the Senate he spent the rest of his career as lawyer in Washington, D.C.

The Temperance Movement is an ambitious work, promising nothing less than “a systematic and comprehensive discussion of the evil [i.e., alcohol] and of its appropriate remedy.” Over nearly 600 pages Blair attempts “to place clearly before the mind the nature of alcohol as a poison to the healthy human system; its destructive effects upon the body and soul of its victim; to portray its tremendous proportions and malignant influence upon society, nations and races of men; [and] to discuss the remedies of this great evil…” (ix)

The text may be “heavy reading” (Mode), but for our purposes the most interesting feature of Blair’s work is a thematic map of Manhattan island. It has been adapted from a standard-issued Colton map to show in red the thousands of saloons crowding the island.

“The eye is the chief inlet to knowledge, and the map of New York city which accompanies this book, upon which are located over 9000 of the 10,168 saloons and places where intoxicating liquor was for sale in that metropolis on the thirtieth day of June, 1886, looks like a chart of the capital city of the regions of despair. When we consider that this great city controls the pivotal State of the Union, and how helplessly it drifts in the maelstrom of alcohol, we require more than the faith which removes mountains if we are still to hope for the republic.” (363)

To my knowledge this is the first attempt, at least in print, to map purveyors of alcohol in service of the cause of Temperance.

Persuasive Maps: The PJ Mode Collection, 1098. OCLC 1151314 et al., giving numerous institutional holdings.