In the early 19th century contamination of drinking water caused epidemics of cholera, and due to the expense of tea and coffee many poor people and their children drank beer to quench their thirst. The Temperance Movement advocated moderation in alcohol consumption in the belief that alcohol was responsible for many of society’s ills including insanity and poverty. The movement which was popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States used political pressure to convince the government to enact laws to regulate alcohol. This social movement later radicalized with the ultimate intention of the legal prohibition of alcohol.


U.K. In 1859 the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association was established in London, England to provide free drinking water. The first fountain was erected in London in 1859 and became an immediate success and many subsequent fountains were placed opposite pubs or churchyards. By 1867 there were over 800 drinking fountains in UK, and ornamental and memorial fountains were donated by private benefactors. The name was changed to include cattle troughs in support of animal welfare: The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association (M.D.F.C.T.A.).

As horse traffic declined due to the invention of the motor car, troughs were no longer built, and with the concern over hygiene the metal cups were replaced with bubblers (water jets.) During the First World War, the UK government licensed pub hours and beer was watered down.

From the Irish Temperance League Journal, Feburary 1863.
The success of the drinking fountain movement has been very great. It is a happy state of things that people, as they wander through the streets of many of our larger cities, can quench their thirst at a fountain, instead of being compelled to invest their money in the nasty decoctions vended in the whisky shop! The drinking fountain has a claim upon the sympathies of the benevolent, and we hope to see them multiplied indefinitely…..By all means let us try and shut out from hundreds the temptation to visit the public-houses – hot-beds of idleness, poverty, vice and crime.

Billy Martin, often called the grandfather of the cause in Ireland, was known for his speeches which included the quote, ‘Drink of the fountain, bubbling free; ‘Twas good for Samson, and ‘tis good for thee.’

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 in DC, the fountain was relocated 100 feet north during the rehabilitation of Pennsylvania Avenue in the 1980s.

On each side, four entablatures are engraved with the words Faith, Hope, Charity, and Temperance. Ice water, provided by coils under blocks of ice, spouted from the mouths of dolphins, 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 fountain that ironically once sat in front of the Apex Liquor Store is now across from a Starbucks. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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By the end of the WW1 the USA had introduced prohibition. The movement’s popularity weakened in the 1930s. However, abstinence of alcohol is still a requirement of several societies such as the Salvation Army, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and many other religions.


9 responses to “Temperance

  • Fred Lauzus

    Do you have any information on the temperance fountain that once stood in the center square of Strasburg Pennsylvania USA from June 1900 to July 1922?

    • HIS

      I have no information at the moment, but if it was made of cast iron and a DRINKING fountain, I can begin researching it. I do not blog spray fountains i.e. large fountains with a central or multiple sprays. Please let me know if it was a drinking fountain and I will begin research.
      Thanks for reading my blog

  • Fred Lauzus

    My previous detailed comment has been awaiting moderation since October 19th, 2017 at 1:36 pm.

    In short, yes it was a cast iron drinking fountain.

  • Fred Lauzus

    I will try the comment without the links to the images.

    It was a drinking fountain made of cast iron by the E. T. Barnum Wire and Iron Works. The base was almost identical to that of the Fireman’s Fountain in Slatington Pennsylvania. Instead of a figure the fountain was topped by a capped urn with lighting fixtures, similar in design to the urn on the Justin F Mackenzie fountain.

    I have some images I’ve scanned from a publication by our local historical society but the resolution is too poor to see all the details. I have contacted them to gain access to the original photographs.

    My long term goal is to generate public interest and create a accurate reproduction of the fountain. Thanks to your blog I found the Fireman’s fountain which will provide information on the base. I am still lacking information in the inscription that can be seen above the drinking basin on our fountain which is not present on the Fireman’s fountain. Also the rosette around the spigot appears to be different.
    I have been seeking any information on our capped urn and lighting fixtures. At this point I do not know if it was also manufactured by E.T. Barnum or another party. It is similar in design but not identical to the capped urns on the Justin F Mackenzie, Lewis and Coyoacan fountains. These urns were all attributed to J.L. Mott Iron Works.

    I haven’t been able to find any information about this fountain or the urn online.

    From the local archives I have found:
    The fountain was a gift from the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union’s to Strasburg Borough.
    The fountain (at least the base) was made of cast iron by the E. T. Barnum Wire and Iron Works in Detroit Michigan.
    It weighed 2500 pounds.
    It was installed the week of June 11 1900.
    It was set on an octagonal stone base.
    The fountain predated local trolley service and the trolley tracks were laid to curve around it.
    The fountain was damaged several years prior to 1922 by a collision with a heavy wagon and had been out of service since then.
    Fountain was removed the week prior to July 8 1922.
    The trolley tracks were relaid straight through the square after removal.

    • HIS

      I just read your previous two messages. You have done all the research yourself so don’t know that I could add much to it although I will give it a try. Do I have your permission to use this information as a post on the blog? I will credit you with the research.

  • Fred Lauzus

    Testing a link to an image of the fountain.

  • HIS

    BTW the test link you sent worked and I can see the image.

  • Fred Lauzus

    You have my permission to share whatever material I post. I am working on acquiring clearer images from the Strasburg Heritage Society. I will credit all my sources accordingly.

    I know the base was made by E.T. Barnum but I have not been able to find it listed in any online catalogs.

    I was hoping to positively identify the manufacturer for the urn since it was not uncommon for fountains to be assembled with components from multiple suppliers.

    I was also seeking any images of the same urn used on another fountain or possibly as ornamentation elsewhere.

    Any information you can provide in these queries would be appreciated.

  • HIS

    I have 3 indistinct images of the fountain viewed from a side angle so it is difficult to see the urn with the extended consoles. It would appear to be the same urn as in the Justin F Mackenzie fountain. The above image shows an elongated pole with electric bulbs so it is possible that the gas lamps were removed. The urn itself was part of a design incorporating lanterns described as a ‘Grecian lamp vase’ sold by JL Mott.

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