For decades, Westerville was the home of The Anti-Saloon League — the nation’s most powerful and effective prohibition organization.

Anti-Saloon League

  • The Anti-Saloon League (ASL) was one of the most influential and successful social reform movements in American history. The organization, which was formed in 1893, sought to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol in the United States. It achieved its goal with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages.

The Founding of the Anti-Saloon League (ASL)

In 1893, a group of temperance advocates met in Oberlin, Ohio, to discuss the formation of a new organization that would take a more aggressive approach to the prohibition of alcohol. The group included Howard Hyde Russell, a businessman from Ohio who had become a teetotaler after his brother died from alcoholism, and Purley A. Baker, a Methodist minister who had organized successful temperance campaigns in Ohio. The new organization they formed was called the Anti-Saloon League (ASL), and its goal was to make the prohibition of alcohol a national priority. The ASL was different from other temperance organizations in several ways. First, it focused exclusively on the prohibition of alcohol, rather than a broader range of social issues. Second, it was organized as a lobbying group, rather than a grassroots movement. Finally, it was led by Protestant ministers, who believed that prohibition was a moral issue that was central to their faith.

The ASL quickly grew in influence and power. It established local chapters in states across the country, and began lobbying politicians at the state and national levels. Its strategy was to identify “wet” politicians who opposed prohibition, and then use its resources to defeat them in elections. It also worked to pass state-level prohibition laws, which would eventually pave the way for national prohibition. The ASL was successful in part because it had a strong financial base. Its members were mostly middle-class and upper-class Protestants, who were willing to contribute large sums of money to the cause. The ASL used this money to fund its lobbying efforts, as well as to run political campaigns against “wet” politicians.

Early Successes

One of the key figures in the early years of the ASL was Wayne Wheeler, who joined the organization in 1902. Wheeler was a skilled political operative who had a talent for organizing grassroots campaigns and building coalitions. He quickly rose through the ranks of the ASL and became one of its most influential leaders. The Anti-Saloon League’s greatest achievement was the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. The Amendment was ratified in 1919, and it went into effect in 1920.

One of the ASL’s early successes came in 1908, when it helped to pass a statewide prohibition law in Georgia. This was a significant victory, because Georgia was the first southern state to pass prohibition. The ASL had targeted Georgia because it believed that a victory there would set a precedent for other southern states to follow.

The ASL’s next big victory came in 1913, when it helped to pass the Webb-Kenyon Act. This law made it illegal to transport alcohol across state lines, which effectively gave the federal government the power to enforce prohibition. The ASL had been lobbying for such a law for years, and its passage was a major milestone in the organization’s history. The Anti-Saloon League played a crucial role in the passage of the 18th Amendment. The League was able to mobilize a large number of supporters to pressure lawmakers to support the Amendment, and its lobbyists were skilled at persuading politicians to vote in favor of prohibition.

ASL's Goals

At its core, the Anti-Saloon League was a movement that sought to democratize the arts and create more accessible spaces for creative expression. The League believed that traditional Saloons were exclusionary and often only open to a select group of artists and intellectuals. They felt that these Saloons reinforced class and cultural hierarchies, creating a barrier to entry for artists who did not come from privileged backgrounds or adhere to the dominant cultural norms.

As such, the League’s main goal was to break down these barriers and create more open and inclusive spaces for artistic expression. They sought to do this in a number of ways, including:

  1. Creating alternative spaces for artistic expression: One of the main ways that the Anti-Saloon League sought to democratize the arts was by creating alternative spaces for artistic expression. These spaces were often more accessible and open to a wider range of artists, regardless of their background or level of experience. They were also designed to be more welcoming and inclusive, with a focus on community-building and collaboration.
  2. Emphasizing diversity and representation: The League also believed that traditional Saloons were often dominated by a narrow range of cultural and artistic perspectives. They sought to counter this by emphasizing diversity and representation in their own events and exhibitions. This meant actively seeking out artists from a range of backgrounds and providing a platform for underrepresented voices to be heard.
  3. Fostering collaboration and experimentation: Another key goal of the Anti-Saloon League was to encourage collaboration and experimentation among artists. They believed that traditional Saloons often discouraged experimentation and risk-taking in favor of more established artistic forms and conventions. The League sought to create spaces where artists could explore new ideas and techniques and collaborate with one another in the spirit of creative experimentation.
  4. Engaging with the broader community: Finally, the Anti-Saloon League sought to engage with the broader community and create a more meaningful dialogue between artists and the public. They believed that traditional Saloons often operated in isolation from the wider community, creating a divide between artists and the people they were creating art for. The League sought to bridge this divide by creating events and exhibitions that were accessible and engaging to a wider audience, and by fostering a sense of community and connection between artists and the public.

Overall, the goals of the Anti-Saloon League were ambitious and far-reaching. They sought to challenge entrenched cultural norms and create a more open and inclusive artistic landscape. While they faced many challenges along the way, the League’s legacy continues to be felt in the many alternative arts spaces and communities that have emerged in the decades since its formation.

Activities of the ASL

One of the primary activities of the Anti-Saloon League was the distribution of pamphlets and other written materials. These materials would often be distributed in public places, such as town squares or outside theaters, and would be intended to inform the public about the dangers of the Saloon culture. The pamphlets would often contain articles or letters from concerned citizens, as well as statistics and other evidence to support the League’s claims.

Another activity of the Anti-Saloon League was the organization of public lectures and debates. These events would be held in public spaces, such as town halls or community centers, and would feature speakers who were experts on various topics related to the Saloon culture. The League would invite local citizens to attend these events, and would often use them as an opportunity to recruit new members.

The Anti-Saloon League was also known for its public demonstrations. These demonstrations would be held in public places, such as town squares or outside theaters, and would often involve the League’s members holding signs or banners to express their views. The League would use these demonstrations as an opportunity to raise public awareness about their cause, and to encourage others to join them in their fight against the Saloon culture.

One of the most controversial activities of the Anti-Saloon League was its use of violence. Some members of the League believed that more extreme measures were necessary to combat the Saloon culture, and would engage in acts of vandalism or even physical violence against Saloons and other establishments they believed were promoting decadent values. While the League as a whole did not officially condone these actions, they did little to discourage them, and many members supported them as a necessary means of achieving their goals.

Despite its controversial tactics, the Anti-Saloon League was a highly effective organization. Its activities helped to raise public awareness about the dangers of the Saloon culture, and helped to mobilize a large number of concerned citizens to take action against it. While the League is no longer active today, its legacy can still be felt in the ongoing debates about the role of culture and morality in modern society.

ASL's Impact

The Anti-Saloon League had a profound impact on the social and cultural landscape of the United States. In its heyday, the league had a membership of over 50,000 individuals and was instrumental in bringing about significant changes in American society.  One of the most notable impacts of the Anti-Saloon League was its influence on fashion. The league’s members were staunch advocates of conservative clothing styles, and they urged women to dress modestly and avoid the revealing fashions that were popular at the time. This movement towards more conservative fashion continued to gain momentum long after the league had disbanded, and it had a lasting impact on the way that women dress in the United States.

The league was also a driving force behind the temperance movement, which sought to curtail the consumption of alcohol in the United States. The league saw alcohol as a corrupting influence that was detrimental to American society, and it worked tirelessly to promote temperance and prohibition. While the league’s efforts were ultimately unsuccessful in the long run, they played a key role in paving the way for the eventual passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which banned the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol. The Anti-Saloon League was also deeply involved in the women’s suffrage movement, which sought to secure voting rights for women in the United States. The league recognized that women’s participation in politics was essential to achieving their broader goals, and it played a significant role in mobilizing women voters and advocating for suffrage.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of the Anti-Saloon League, however, was its impact on American culture. By promoting traditional values and opposing what it saw as the excesses of modernity, the league helped to shape a cultural landscape that would endure for decades to come. Its influence can still be felt in many aspects of American society, from fashion to politics to popular culture. In the end, the Anti-Saloon League was a product of its time, a response to the cultural and social upheavals of the early 20th century. While its views and tactics may seem antiquated to modern eyes, its impact on American society cannot be denied. The league was a powerful force for change, and its legacy endures to this day.

Legacy of the ASL

Despite its success in achieving national prohibition, the ASL faced significant opposition throughout its existence. Critics argued that prohibition had led to an increase in organized crime, as well as a black market for alcohol. Others argued that the government’s attempt to regulate personal behavior was an infringement on individual liberties.

The ASL disbanded in 1933, following the repeal of the 18th Amendment. However, its legacy lived on. The organization had established a powerful lobbying network that would later be used by other interest groups, and it had also demonstrated the power of grassroots organizing and political action. The ASL had helped to shape the political landscape of the United States in the early 20th century, and its impact can still be felt today.


The Anti-Saloon League was a significant force in American politics and society in the early 20th century. Its goal of prohibition was controversial, but the organization’s relentless lobbying efforts helped to achieve national prohibition in 1917. The ASL’s legacy lives on, as its model of lobbying and grassroots organizing has been used by many other interest groups since its founding. While the ASL is no longer in existence, its impact on American politics and society can still be felt today.