The temperance movement which began in the early 19th century advocated moderation in alcohol consumption. The belief that alcohol was responsible for many of society’s ills made this social movement popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Political pressure was used by the Movement to convince the government to enact laws to regulate alcohol.


Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains. The Scottish Saracen foundry used an open bible displaying a verse from St. John’s Gospel chapter 4 verse 14, ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.’ The useful monition, Keep The Pavement Dry was a common feature. 

Green Park. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9028007@N05/4734964389/

Sydney AUS In 1914 Lord Mayor Alderman Richards stated that ‘in many cases persons would prefer drinking at a fountain to slaking their thirst at a bar, and more fountains would at least be a small set-off to the dangerous temptations of the public-house.’

USA The National Women’s Christian Temperance Union encouraged local chapters to erect fresh water fountains in public venues. Fountains were erected in popular areas to provide pure drinking water to men who claimed that drinking alcohol was a necessity because of the unavailability of clean drinking water. The Union’s concern for animal rights was addressed with drinking troughs at various heights which provided refreshment for horses and dogs. The fountains were always inscribed with the organization’s name..

A wealthy San Francisco dentist and businessman, Henry D. Cogswell, erected sixteen temperance fountains in various cities across America including the city of Washington DC in June 1884. As a temperance crusader, he believed that easy access to cool drinking water would deter people from consuming alcohol to slake their thirst.

Originally located at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street, the fountain was relocated 100 feet north during the rehabilitation of Pennsylvania Avenue in the 1980s. The fountain that ironically once sat in front of the Apex Liquor Store is now across from a Starbucks.

The granite structure is seated on a two tiered square plinth and consists of four Doric columns supporting a solid square canopy with a sectional gabled roof. An acroter supports the statue of a crane. On each side, four entablatures are engraved with the words Faith, Hope, Charity, and Temperance. Beneath the canopy is a central column with the dedication: Presented by / Henry D. Cogswell / of San Francisco CAL. Two intertwined dolphins form the drinking fountain. Ice water, provided by coils under blocks of ice, spouted from the mouths, and brass cups attached to chains offered a receptacle for refreshment. Water overflow spilled into troughs where horses could also partake of the cool water.

The drinking fountain is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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  • Acroter, flat base
  • Column Doric, a plain shaft with a capital consisting of a circle topped with a square
  • Entablature, moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.

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