I came across a curious Victorian invitation card, that I share with you now. It shows a pensive-looking, blond woman, cloaked on a winter’s night. The card reads: “Compliments of Merrimack Lodge, No. 5, I.O G.T. Valentine Party, Feb. 14, ’87.” Following some research it is apparent that this notecard was generated in 1887 by the International Order of Good Templars, specifically the Merrimack Lodge, which was located in Manchester, New Hampshire.
The word “temperance” generally means doing things in moderation. In this specific case it meant not drinking alcoholic beverages, rather than drinking moderately. The I.O.G.T. did not invent the idea of avoiding alcohol. I find references to temperance back in 18th century newspapers on the subject, including in New Hampshire. For example, on September 25, 1787 the New-Hampshire Spy (Portsmouth NH) carried a notice of a book for sale written by Lewis Cornaro on temperance. Then on September 6, 1792 the Concord Mirrour (Concord NH) on page 4 carried a long article “On Temperance,” written by John Grose, F.A.S.
By the 19th century, the temperance organizations began to form and grew in numbers. In 1833 a Daniel Oliver, M.D. presented a talk to the New Hampshire Medical Society on the health benefits of temperance. The promotion of avoiding alcohol and adopting the precepts of temperance grew rapidly once it was espoused by Christian and Women’s groups.
The New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH) of August 31, 1843 reported on a “Temperance Convention held at Manchester on August 25th. Officers included Jonathan Cartland of Lee, President; Charles Lane of Gilford, C.P. Danforth, Nashua, S.F. Wetmore, Manchester, Wm. P. Hill, Concord, D.S. Frost, Hopkinton, Vice Presidents; and John R. French of Concord, and Geo. T. Wentworth, of Dover Secretaries. Mr. Cartland declining to act as President, Col. Charles Lane of Gilford, was appointed President of the Convention. “The Convention was held in the Town Hall and was the largest temperance convention ever assembled in this State.”
The I.O.G.T. itself has its beginnings in 1850 in Utica New York. They emulated the Masons in a way, including their own rituals and manner of dress, however they included women as members, and they (at least overtly) did not discriminate by race). In Manchester New Hampshire, by 1865 Stark Lodge (of the I.O.G.T.) had been formed, followed by Merrimac(k) Lodge in 1866. On Saturday May 4, 1867, the Mirror and Farmer (Manchester NH) Page 3 published: “GOOD TEMPLARS–The following officers were chosen Friday evening, for the ensuing quarter, by Merrimack Lodge, No. 44, I.O.G.T., and are to be installed next Friday evening: Daniel R. Prescott, W.C.T., Addie Hutchinson, W.V.T., Cha’s E. Freeman, W.S.; Cha’s G. Blake, W.F.S.; Wm. F. Childs, W.T., Samuel Cunningham, W.M.; John N. Kenney, W.C.; Hattie D. Fuller, W.I.G.; Henry Patterson, W.O.G.” There were, of course, many other groups besides I.O.G.T. who promoted temperance before, during, and after this time.
The 1887 Manchester (NH) City Directory shows the following notices under the heading of “Temperance:
STARK LODGE, No. 4, I.O. of G.T.
Instituted May 31, 1865. Meets every Saturday evening, at 7.45 o’clock at Good Templar Hall, Dunlap’s block, 961 Elm Street. Deputy, Geo. O. Heselton
MERRIMAC LODGE, No. 5, I.O. of G.T.
Instituted December 6, 1866. Meets every Monday evening at 8 o’clock, at Good Templar Hall, Dunlap’s block, 961 Elm st. Deputy, Noah A. Bartlett
HARRIS LODGE, No. 45, I.O. of G.T.
Instituted May 22, 1878. Meets every Friday evening, at 8 o’clock at Hall in Eastman block, School street, West Manchester. Deputy, Thomas H. Crosby.
GRANITE STATE COUNCIL, No. 1, R. TEMPLARS OF TEMP.
Organized November 28, 1878. Meets in Knights of Honor Hall, Opera House block, Hanover street, Monday evenings, at 7:30 o’clock.
MANCHESTER REFORM CLUB.
Public meetings at City Hall, Elm, cor. Market street, every Sunday evening at 7.30 o’clock, and business meetings in Cilley’s block, Elm, cor. Amherst st., Wednesday evenings, at 7.45. Pres., Gilbert Wilbur. Sec., A.G. Stevens. Financial Secretary, Mrs. L.A.W. Rundelett. Executive Committee, S.C. Clatur, H.W. Herrick. Finance Committee, L.M. Clark, Miss Nellie Colby, G. Wilbur. Music Committee, L.M. Clark, W.G. Colcord, Mrs. L.A.W. Rundlett. Pledge Committee, S.L. Higgins, Fred Heath, Mrs. G. Wilbur. Chaplain, A.H. Clement. Sergeant-at-Arms, F.J. Walker
ST. PAUL’S TOTAL ABSTINENCE MUTUAL BENEFIT SOCIETY
Meets every Thursday evening, at 8 o’clock in Elliott & Means’ block, 1096 Elm Street. Spritual Director, Rev. Edward Mackey. Pres., William Sullivan. Vice-Pres., John F. Reardon. Recording Secretary, John Haley. Financial Secretary, Edward Rogers. Treas., John T. Hannigan.
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CATHOLIC T.A. AND B.M. SOCIETY
Meets every Tuesday evening in Globe block, 17 Hanover street, at 8 o’clock. Spiritual Director, Rev. John J. Lyons. Pres., Timothy Sullivan. Vice-Pres., John J. Maloney. Recording Secretary, James A. Broderick. Financial Secretary, John Whalen. Treas., James A. Boyle. Sergeant-At-Arms., James McCarty.
Temperance groups remained strong in Manchester NH until after the repeal of Prohibition. The I.O. G.T. remains a viable organization today, though in the 1970s it changed greatly to distance itself from the old trappings of rituals and terminology. Temperance groups, in general, have much less political clout than they did in the 18th and 19th centuries.