Collection

Temperance Sign

Collection: Branded

Category: Wood and metal

Date: Circa 1920s

Designer: unknown

Nationality of Designer: British

Manufacturer: Temperance drink manufacturer

Manufacturers Location: UK

Material: Wood and paint

Dimensions: 2000 X 600mm

Purchase Price: £200

Abstract:

Advertisement/promotion of a non alcoholic drink 

Provenance:

purchased in 'original' condition - well battered

Personal history/nominator:

Bought by Maria Benjamin with a view to using it in the marketing of a new Temperance drink being made by the Coniston Youth Club.

The sign reads

Weak Men, suffering the effects of youthful errors, loss of manhood and memory, depression of spirits, disturbed sleep, blushing, constipation, and general loss of physical & mental organization, should drink our Noted Beverages.

Adaptions/renovations:

Restored by Ian Whiteoak in 2012. Ian is a traditional sign writer often used by Grizedale Arts and Coniston village. The original sign was made by a sign writer of rather lesser ability than Ian, probably made by an amateur. 

Why it's in the Collection:

The sign is an anti-alcohol slanted advertisement for a tonic drink – similar drinks would include Iron Bru, Coca Cola and Dr Pepper all developed in the 19th century to offer alternatives to alcohol. The Temperance movement aimed to endorse moderation or, in the case of the majority of its established societies’ total abstinence from alcohol.

For the collection the sign represents the Temperance movement – a powerful force in the north of England and a corner stone of the local village tourism industry in the early part of the 20thcentury. Grizedale, working with the village youth club is interested in the impact of alcohol on tourism culture. That a small rural village has 6 pubs and promotes Stag and Hen parties is indicative of the dominance of the alcohol driven leisure offered. The village has become used to the binge drinking culture and tolerates extreme behaviour in an acquiescence towards all and any tourism trend.

Coniston’s historic Temperance hotels suggest that the village once aimed to present itself as a destination liberated from the pernicious effects of the consumption of intoxicating libations. This ambition is illustrated in a quote from a letter explaining the need for the Coniston Institute and addressed to the public from the Institute’s Committee in 1890.

Talking about the young, ‘There is in Coniston a special want of any place to which they can resort for harmless amusement during the winter evenings. The consequences of such a want are well known. They pick up evil companions & acquire all sorts of bad habits, & thus many a youth becomes a source of grief to his friends & a nuisance to others, who but for the want of such a resort might have turned out steady & respectable. It must therefore be of interest to all that such a place should be provided, & it is therefore intended to add Recreation Rooms in which harmless amusements could be engaged in.

A further anecdotal story ties the feminist movement of the 1970’ and 80’s into the story. The sign was purchased from an antiques dealer who clams to have liberated it from a separatist household based in Finsbury Park. Where it had been used as a reminder of the evils of men rather than alcohol. Turning it into a description of men as weak characters, vulnerable to sacrifice their lives in the pursuit of destructive pleasures, an argument that might legitimize the exclusion of men from society.

The antique dealer was making a semi humorous comment on gender discrimination - from a reactionary’s perspective. 

About the Designer/Maker:

There is a long history of anti alcohol movements drawn primarily from religious denominations. The recent history in the UK is probably drawn from the American Temperance Society founded 1826, which helped to initiate the first temperance movement and consequently served as a foundation for many later groups. By 1835, the ATS had reached 1.5 million members, with women constituting 35-60% of individual chapters.

The first UK incarnation, the Ulster Temperance Society, was founded by the Presbyterian Minister John Edgar in 1829, the movement then blossomed in Preston, where, in 1833, the term Teetotal was forged, and the first temperance hotel and periodical, The Preston Temperance Advocate, instituted. The movement spread through the country with many different societies, mostly tied to the Church of England and with various levels of intransigence towards liquor consumption.

In the USA a total national ban of alcohol was achieved through prohibition, enforced legally from 1920 to 1933. The negative impact of this period are well documented and argued – the rise of the Mafia and civil corruption being the principle issues. The impact on the national health and well-being are less well publicised.

Female suffrage employed Temperance principles in many of its arguments and anti-alcohol platforms were used to support working-class right to vote campaigns.

The Band of Hope, founded in Leeds in 1847, had the goal to prevent children from drinking in the future.

About the Manufacturer:

We know nothing of the original home of the sign or of the drink it advertises. However in a revival of it’s original purpose Coniston Youth club took part in Grizedale Art’s ‘Coleseum of the Consumed’ for Frieze Projects - London in 2012 were they sold alcohol free cordials - subjected to a soda stream and retailed in a plastic bag with an inserted straw – under the title of “Intemperate Youth's Temperance Cordial”.

Bibliography & Further information

American Temperance Society

John Edgar