The American Temperance Society (ATS) was established in 1826 and advocated for abstaining from drinking distilled beverages. They worked to improve society by banning the drinking of alcohol. The ATS’ achievements include motivating millions of people to abstain from drinking alcohol and becoming the national clearinghouse.


To understand the goals and achievements of the ATS, it is crucial to know what the temperance movement is. The temperance movement advocates against the consumption of alcohol.

Individuals participating in the movement promote complete abstinence from drinking alcoholic beverages and criticize intoxication. In the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the movement was present in many countries, such as the United States, England, and Norway.

The temperance movement was originated in the early 18th centuries, when alcohol started to affect Native American societies significantly. At that time, the popularity of distilled beverages resulted in social disintegration and poverty.

Moreover, the consumption of alcohol led to severe health problems and an increase in crime rates. As a result, Native American cultures began to advocate for abstinence and legislation that could reduce sales of alcoholic drinks.

One of the characteristics the temperance movement had was international cooperation. Some of the first organizations that engaged into it were the Order of the Good Templars (1851), the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (1874), and the Anti-Saloon League (1895). These societies advocated for abstinence from drinking alcohol through political, social, and educational strategies.

The ATS, also known as the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, was established in 1826 in Boston, Massachusetts. The founders of the ATS are Lyman Beecher and Dr. Justin Edwards. Within five years, the organization motivated around 170,000 individuals to abstain from drinking alcohol.

After five more years, the ATS had more than 1,250,000 followers that had pledged to avoid the consumption of distilled beverages. The society is not the only one contributing to the cause, but it may be considered the largest and most well-known one.

The majority of people belonging to the ATS were women who, together with their children, had experienced the negative effects of alcohol on their husbands, fathers, brothers, and other men.

At first, the society could be seen as a group of people promoting voluntary abstinence. However, with time, temperance groups started to advocate for mandatory prohibition of distilled beverages throughout the country.

The ATS is notable because it is one of the first public initiatives that was supported massively and nationally. The goal the society had was the national center that people could use to learn more about temperance.

The society contributed to several significant issues besides promoting sobriety. For instance, it advocated for the elimination of slavery, temperance, women’s rights, and the general improvement of society at that time. The ATS was highly successful in the northern states, which was possibly a result of its relation to the abolition movement.

Besides motivating many individuals to abstain from alcohol, the society also helped in reducing the cases of abuse in families and affected many reformers of the time. Moreover, it contributed to the establishment of the Eighteenth Amendment that made the production, transport, and sale of alcoholic beverages illegal.

The temperance movement was becoming less powerful when the Civil War began. In 1870s, it was substituted by the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement that advocated for prison reform, suffrage, and labor laws.