In 1836, all across the U.S., thousands of indoor and outdoor temperance gatherings took place in which the public was invited to attend and anyone was given the opportunity to sign a pledge of permanent abstinence from alcohol in any form. Now, in 2015, there is only one such gathering that takes place every year. This free public Temperance Rally is an historic reenactment of what would have taken place in 1836.
It is also a rare opportunity for any person wanting to take a vow of total abstinence to do so in a publicly sanctioned event specifically intended for just that.
In the first half of the U.S.’s existence, this form of ending alcohol abuse was ubiquitous and undertaken successfully by millions of people by signing the pledge in public. Today, though, addiction treatment and recovery groups discourage making recovery such a short and quick undertaking. The reasons for this change are several and the cause of considerable debate.
Notwithstanding the differing views, attending this Temperance Rally and producing one’s own video or other documentation of taking the abstinence pledge by signing “the book of temperance” may help in avoiding both the huge cost of being professionally treated to not take a drink, and life long attendance in recovery group meetings. Since recovery program involvement is often mandated by a government, employment, or family authority, having hard evidence of avowing to become a teetotaler in a formal public setting designed for that purpose may help assuage their skepticism.
The taking-the-pledge method of recovery certainly used to be as American as apple pie and motherhood. Time will tell whether it will come to be so, again.
Katherine Muller, Volunteer Coordinator at The Historic Village at Allaire, 4263 Atlantic Avenue, Farmingdale, NJ, writes about that day’s events:
“At the scheduled times, which are 1:00 and 2:30, the pledge for temperance is read and the public is encouraged to sign the book of temperance.”
“The temperance rally is more of a continuous presentation throughout the day. We have a group in our group of reenactors in our village called the Temperance and Charitable Society. This group, historically, would be concerned with a number of programs and activities from raising funds for pensioners from the war of 1812, orphans, education, temperance, etc. Throughout the day, the society will discuss these issues and gossip from the village such as the daughter’s of the owner’s upcoming marriage. (Her mother has just passed away and there is speculation about the wedding not being postponed. Traditionally the family should be in mourning for a year or more during which time there should be no weddings.)”
“This year the Temperance Society will be campaigning for signatures to request the General Store to cease its sale of laudanum. Laudanum was a drink often given to women, and sometimes for children, containing opium. It appeared under names such as “mommy’s little helper”.”
“Along with the temperance rally that day we are having a special School Days program. Visitors and their children get to participate in a short school lesson from the time period.”