America in its early years was awash in alcohol. Indeed, when one reads some of the statistics and anecdotes, it is difficult not to believe that the Pilgrims had a more or less continuous buzz on, Cotton Mather was half in the bag while writing his sermons, and our nation’s founding documents were written while under the influence. This staggering level of consumption, and its social cost, eventually provoked an extreme reaction in the form of the Temperance movement’s outright rejection of alcohol.
First gaining steam in tandem with the religious revival of the 1820s and 1830s, Temperance waxed and waned for decades, with occasional triumphs such as Massachusetts’ 1838 ban on sales of small amounts of alcohol (repealed in 1840) and Maine’s Prohibition law of 1846 (repealed in 1858). The push for national Prohibition picked up steam with the 1893 founding of the Anti-Saloon League, which developed into the mightiest lobbying organization yet seen in America, and culminated in the ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919.
Given the stakes, both proponents and opponents of Prohibition deployed all possible weapons to make their case, including the techniques of persuasive cartography. Offered here is an interesting example of the genre, being a thematic map of Manhattan island showing the locations of some 9000 saloons. The map was adapted from a standard-issue Colton map by William Henry Blair for his The Temperance Movement OR THE Conflict between Man & Alcohol (1888).
“William Henry Blair was a Republican senator from New Hampshire and ardent supporter of prohibition. He introduced the first bill in Congress to ban the manufacture, sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages and published this work while he was still in the Senate.
“Although the book is heavy reading, the map tells the story. In Blair’s words ([pg.] 363): “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.””
Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1098.