Acquisition: No acquisition records exist for the records of the East Cambridge temperance organizations. It is presumed that they were purchased or donated to the Cambridge Historical Society at some point in its early history.
Access: There are no restrictions on items in this collection.
Permission to Publish: Requests for permission to publish from the collection should be made to the Executive Director.
Copyright: The Cambridge Historical Society does not hold copyright on the materials in the collection.
East Cambridge Temperance Society, East Cambridge Temperance Society
The East Cambridge Temperance Society and East Cambridge Union Temperance Society were probably local chapters of a national organization called the American Temperance Society. The American Temperance Society was a society established in Boston in 1826. Within five years there were 2,220 local chapters in the U.S. with 170,000 members who had taken a pledge to abstain from drinking distilled beverages. Within ten years, there were over 8,000 local groups and more than 1,500,000 members who had taken the pledge. The society benefited from, and contributed to, a reform sentiment in much of the country promoting the abolition of slavery, expanding women’s rights, temperance, and the improvement of society. Possibly because of its association with the abolitionist movement, the society was most successful in northern states. After a while, temperance groups increasingly pressed for the mandatory prohibition of alcohol rather than for voluntary abstinence. The American Temperance Society was the first U.S. social movement organization to mobilize massive and national support for a specific reform cause. Within three years of its organization, it had spread across the country. The East Cambridge Union Temperance Society met at Methodist and Baptist churches in East Cambridge. The organization was apparently popular among residents of the village, as public meetings are noted to have a large attendance (as reflected in the March 25, 1832 entry in Volume I).
Union Division Number 8 Sons of Temperance, Union Division Sons of Temperance
The Union Division Number 8 Sons of Temperance and Union Division Sons of Temperance were probably local chapters of the international Sons of Temperance organization. The Sons of Temperance was a “Brotherhood” society of men who promoted the “Temperance movement” temperance movement and mutual support. It began spreading rapidly during the 1840s throughout the United States and parts of Canada. The organization had a highly restricted membership. In order to become a member (called a “brother“), a man had to be “Nominated” nominated by an existing member. Three other brothers would then investigate his life to determine if they thought he was worthy of membership. The Sons of Temperance required a two-dollar “Initiation” initiation fee, an amount equal to a week’s wages of an ordinary worker. In addition, the weekly membership fee was six cents. It had secret rituals, signs, passwords, hand-grips and “Regalia” regalia. The organization also acted as an insurance company. Its constitution required the society to pay thirty dollars to cover the burial costs of any member who died. It also required the payment of fifteen dollars for the funeral costs of a member’s dead wife. The Union Division Number 8 Sons of Temperance met at Webster Hall in East Cambridge circa 1850.
No further information about this organization or a parent organization was found at the time of writing.
American Temperance Society, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Temperance_Society, accessed on July 28, 2009
Sons of Temperance, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_of_Temperance, accessed on July 28, 2009
The Parmenter-Hunt Diaries at the Cambridge Historical Society. Mary Parmenter diary, 1849-1852, contains the records of the Ladies Union Society, 1842-1844. The Ladies Union Society was a women’s auxiliary group to the East Cambridge Union Temperance Society.
The East Cambridge Temperance Organizations Records consist of three series.
Series I, 1830-1843, consists of records of the East Cambridge Temperance Society and the East Cambridge Union Temperance Society. Volume I, 1830-1843, is the records of the East Cambridge Temperance Society and is primarily contains administrative detail such as meeting minutes, discussions of by-laws, and membership updates. The East Cambridge Temperance Society dissolved on August 17, 1843 and merged with the East Cambridge Union Temperance Society. Volume II, 1839-1843, contains the records of the East Cambridge Union Temperance Society and mostly records meeting minutes, membership updates, descriptions of guest speakers, and communication with other temperance organizations. There is one entry of particular interest dated February 13, 1843, which calculates the number of taverns and liquor stores per adult resident in the village of East Cambridge. In the same entry, there is mention of a ‘drinking and gambling house’ that was supposed to be built at the entrance to the village of East Cambridge. Future entries in this volume do not mention if it was ever built.
Series II, 1844-1873, contains the records of the Union Division Number 8 Sons of Temperance. Three of the volumes record meeting minutes, and the three volumes are treasury books. Volume I: 1844-1875 (inclusive) 1844-1845 (bulk), Volume II: 1846-1851 and Volume III: 1851-1857 contain meeting minutes, membership updates, descriptions of guest speakers, and communication with other temperance organizations. There are frequent mentions of members accusing each other of consuming alcohol, a violation of the organization’s constitution. Sometimes these accusations resulted in the expulsion of a member.
In Volume I, following the bulk of entries from1844-1845, there is a page of meeting minutes from 1861, apparently from the same organization. An entry from 1875 also contains a page of meeting minutes from the Union Division Number 8 Sons of Temperance. A list of members’ names from 1844-1845 appears on the last two pages, written upside down.
Volume I also contains entries by individuals and organizations other than the Union Division Number 8 Sons of Temperance. Toward the end of the volume there is a single entry by the Union Base Ball Club dated 1875, listing players and game statistics. There is also a brief poem dated 1876, written upside down near the end of the volume.
In Volume II, a September 5, 1850 entry touches upon an event of national history: the organization received a solicitation letter from the Washington National Monument Society. The society contributed to its construction through personal donations, raising an unspecified amount of money. In Volume III, a letter of gratitude is transcribed on May 31, 1855 from a reverend in Pennsylvania- the society paid for a member’s funeral who was related to the reverend.
Volumes IV (1859-1861), V (1861-1867), VI (1862-1873) and VII (1867-1873) are treasury books from Union Division Number 8 Sons of Temperance. It lists members’ names and their dues paid or owed, expenditures and cash flow, etc.
Series III (1859-1868) contains the records of the United Temple society. Volume I, (1859-1868), is a treasury book that lists members’ names and dues paid or owed, expenditures and cash flow, etc. No volume containing meeting minutes exists for this organization.
For all organizations mentioned above, there is no indication after the last entry in the ledger that the organization officially disbanded (with the exception of the East Cambridge Temperance Society merger into the East Cambridge Union Temperance Society). Therefore it is likely that the organizations continued to exist and there are missing records of a later date.
- Cambridge (Mass.) – Social life and customs
- Men – Massachusetts – Societies and clubs
- Temperance – Massachusetts – Cambridge – Societies, etc.
- Temperance – Massachusetts – History – 19th century
- Women – Massachusetts – Societies and clubs
||Series I. East Cambridge Temperance Society and the East Cambridge Union Temperance Society, (1830-1843)
1|1|Volume I, (administrative) 1830-1843
1|2|Volume I, loose material
1|3|Volume II, (administrative) 1839-1843
1|4|Volume II, loose material
||Series II. Union Division Number 8 Sons of Temperance, (1844-1873)
1|5|Volume I, (administrative) 1844-1845 (bulk)
1|6|Volume II, (administrative) 1846-1851
1|7|Volume III, (administrative) 1851-1857
2|1|Volume IV, (treasury) 1859-1861
2|2|Volume V, (treasury) 1861-1867
2|3|Volume V, loose material
2|4|Volume VI, (treasury) 1862-1873
2|5|Volume VII, (treasury) 1867-1873
||Series III. United Temple, (1859-1868)
2|6|Volume I, (treasury) 1859-1868