Brown University Library

"Of the Poison Brand"
Two Centuries of Sources for The Study of Alcohol and Alcoholism

An exhibition of materials relating to the history of the manufacture and consumption of alcohol and the movements devoted to controlling its use and rehabilitating alcoholics.

Rockefeller and John Hay Libraries,
Brown University, May 16-July 15, 1997

This exhibition was mounted in conjunction with the first Chester H. Kirk Collection Conference, "Information Resources for Alcohol Research," May 16- 18. sponsored by the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, the Brown University Library, and the Stepping Stones Foundation. Materials on display include books, pamphlets, posters, broadsides, newspapers, videotapes, and ephemera from the Kirk Collection and other holdings of the Rockefeller, Sciences, and John Hay Libraries.

The exhibition at the Rockefeller Library is organized topically, focusing on subjects such as the manufacture of alcohol and alcohol's use as medicine. The Rockefeller exhibition also includes materials dealing with the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the research on the Brown campus dealing with addictive behavior.

At the John Hay, the exhibition traces the temperance movement in the United States from the 18th century through the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The Sons of Temperance, Washingtonian Society, Order of Good Templars, Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Father Mathew Societies, Anti-Saloon League, the Prohibition Party, and other groups contribute books, pamphlets, broadsides, songsters, photographs, and even a temperance board game.

The Hay exhibit pays tribute to World War I's crucial role in the history of American temperance. The consumption of alcohol was severely restricted in wartime, and advocates of national prohibition secured passage of the 18th amendment to the Constitution. Glass magic lantern slides published for use in temperance lectures to soldiers and sailors during the war are among the most unusual and most interesting artifacts of this era. Converted to 35mm format for digital scanning by Slide Makers, Providence, R.I., a small sample appears here:


"We Invite Your Attention ...," the introductory slide for a temperance program modified for wartime use.
"Harry Lauder says ..." American temperance groups borrowed existing British wartime temperance slides like this one featuring the words of famed music hall entertainer Harry Lauder.
"Fooling with the enemy ..." Another British slide modified for American soldiers and sailors, with the image and words of warning of Admiral Sir John R. Jellicoe.
"U.S.S. 'The Recruit' ...," an aerial view of the U.S. Navy recruiting center at Union Square on 14th Street in Manhattan.
"Alcohol has sometimes been erroneously described as a shock absorber ..." A civilian temperance message now serves as the caption for a battlefront image.
"Of the Poison Brand." Medical and scientific testimonials to alcohol's toxic effects.
"Where Quick Wits are Needed Alcohol Slows Wits and Confuses Action." A slide tying the temperance message to wartime aviation

The John Hay Library exhibit also devotes special sections to the works of Timothy Shay Arthur, author of Ten Nights In A Bar-Room, and to the scores of other authors, composers, and publishers who supplied the advocates of temperance with novels, children's literature, and temperance speeches, skits, and songs, including a special display of twenty "Battle Hymns of the Cold-Water Army" from Brown's sheet music collection. Temperance graphic art is honored as well. One of the most remarkable examples is "The Tree of Intemperance", Nathaniel Currier's famous 1849 etching. Popular as this image was, nearly a quarter of a century passed before Currier & Ives added the companion "Tree of Temperance" to the list of morally-uplifting decorative prints to be hung on the walls of American parlors. See larger image.

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