Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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The Oklahoma Territory Anti-Saloon League developed in 1898 as a branch of a national movement to fight for prohibition of alcoholic beverages in Oklahoma and Indian territories. James L. Brown, leader of the organization, requested its national general superintendent, Howard H. Russell, to attend the formation meeting held at Oklahoma City in January1899. With the assistance of many churches and other prohibition groups, including the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the league began its campaign to stop the sale of alcohol by ridding the state of all saloons. Members used their monthly magazine, the American Issue, to spread messages and gain support.

As statehood approached, the Anti-Saloon League expanded its crusade to bring Oklahoma into the Union as a dry state. The national organization sent Rev. E. C. Dinwiddie as a lobbyist to the Constitutional Convention in November 1906 to argue its cause. The Anti-Saloon League wanted to expand the 1906 Enabling Act, which called for single statehood and prohibition in Indian Territory and the Osage Indian Reservation for twenty-one years, to include the entire state. The league solicited the help of politicians, including Oklahoma's first governor, Charles N. Haskell. Delegates formed a prohibition committee at the convention. Eventually prohibition was left to a vote of the people, and in September 1907 citizens accepted the proposed constitution and Oklahoma's legal prohibition.

The league demonstrated its continued political power after statehood when the legislature set up an enforcement system. The state government established a dispensary system, and designated county establishments distributed liquor for medicinal purposes. Despite the league's efforts, a vote of the people in 1933 legalized the sale of 3.2 beer throughout Oklahoma.

Oklahoma's Anti-Saloon League remained present in the state and in 1959 joined with other forces to develop the Oklahoma Dry Association. However, a vote of the people in September 1959 made the sale of liquor legal in Oklahoma.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Anti-Saloon League of America, Proceedings of the Convention of the Anti-Saloon League of America (Westerville, Ohio: American Issues Press, 1915-1933). Jimmie L. Franklin, Born Sober: Prohibition in Oklahoma, 1907-1959 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971). Jimmie L. Franklin, “That Noble Experiment: A Note on Prohibition in Oklahoma,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 43 (Spring 1965). R. G. Furbay, “The Anti-Saloon League,” North American Review (September 1903). Paul Nesbitt, “Governor Haskell Tells of Two Conventions,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 14 (June 1936). Peter H. Odegard, Pressure Politics: The Story of the Anti-Saloon League (New York: Columbia University Press, 1928).

Rebecca Watkins

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