The Temperance Family Almanac for the Year of Our Lord 1835
As with many other reform movements of the day, temperance activists made use of a variety of print media to further their cause, including the long-popular genre of almanacs. It became common for antebellum reform organizations to publish almanacs that included—among their charts of the stars and weather predictions—facts, stories, poems, and advertisements that advanced their cause. Indeed, the author of this text notes that “almost every religious sect and political party have Almanacs which express their own particular views.” Antebellum reform organizations were keen to maximize whatever means of mass communication were available to them and temperance societies were no exception.
In this 1835 issue of the Temperance Family Almanac, the cover image foreshadows the admonitions found within. Entitled “The Pillars of a Grog-Shop,” the image depicts a cautionary tale. An inebriated mother and father lean against opposing pillars, each with a glass in hand, while their children are left to their own devices. The daughter huddled at her mother’s feet and the son bearing a pained expression at his father’s side provide a stark visual representation of drunkenness’s filial perils. Moreover, a devil can be found lurking in the background of the image, warming itself by the still’s flame—a reference to liquor’s transgressive appeal and also likely intended to remind the viewer that alcohol abuse is not only a moral failing, but a sin as well.
From a nineteenth-century viewer’s perspective, the implications of this illustration would be glaringly clear. Not only has the father forsaken his role as provider and protector, a common trope in print materials of this kind, but the mother has also failed to perform her maternal and civic duties of raising her children to be virtuous citizens of the republic. The sins of the parents will be visited on the children and, what is more, society will be made to bear the costs as well.
In dialogues, poems, scientific data, and various other forms, this refrain repeats throughout the almanac.