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The Temperance Movement Among the Finnish-Americans

In many Finnish areas of settlement conditions had gone to wrack and ruin. When it is kept in mind that the majority of the immigrants from Finland were young, unmarried men, that they knew little English, worked extremely long hours in the most arduous of labor, one can understand the grim picture which was drawn of their lives : the money that was supposed to be sent home was spent in the saloons; the money set aside for a rainy day was quickly spent; the pay envelope seemed to slip out of one's hands. In the saloons and in dark alleys Finnish knives used to flash, terrorizing whole communities. This restless life centered in the saloons, into which newcomers from Finland were so often drawn, threatened not only to destroy numerous promising young men but also threatened to brand the Finns as a whole.

Fortunately some realized the social abuses and were prepared to fight against them. The Finns by no means originated the idea of temperance, for the first such society in America had been started in Connecticut in 1789, a society advocating moderation in the use of alcoholic beverages was founded in Boston in 1826, and ten years later total abstinence pledges were made in Saratoga. Before this latter event, the first temperance conference had been held in Philadelphia, in 1833, with some 400 representatives from 21 (out of a total of 24) states.

Local temperance groups were gradually joined into one of various temperance leagues, some of them of almost secret society nature. One of these was the Scandinavian, Good Templar organization, established in 1851. And when Neal Dow was elected mayor of Portland, the first legal prohibition appeared in Maine in 1855. The National Prohibition Party was founded in 1869, and it served as an insistent `third party' for decades, putting up candidates for election to offices up to and including the presidency. The Anti-Saloon League, founded later, did not have its own political candidates but urged its supporters to vote for those candidates of the big parties who also supported prohibition. By the beginning of World War I, the National Prohibition Party and the Anti-Saloon League had succeeded in making 9 states `dry', while 15 states had limiting laws, making for partial prohibition. The rest were called the `saloon states,' and in this group belonged Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, among others. To be sure, the Federal Government had made two agreements with the Indians (in 1854 and 1863) making illegal the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in Duluth and Northern Minnesota,


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