Paul D. Sanders, Lyrics and Borrowed Tunes of the American Temperance Movement. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006. 281 pp. ISBN 978-0-8262-1645-8. Reviewed by Ralph Hartsock, for the Journal of Southern Religion.

The American temperance movement began in the late eighteenth century, gained momentum during the middle nineteenth century, and continued until the passage of Prohibition in 1919. Music has often played a major role in political campaigns, and temperance was no exception. Jack S. Blocker, in American Temperance Movements (1989), noted multiple temperance movements with a single goal. By 1834, one million members were in 5,000 temperance societies. The four most dominant organizations were the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the Independent Order of Good Templars, the Anti-Saloon League, and the secular group the Washingtonians. Recognizing no religious creed, nor political party, the Washingtonians named their organization after the first president. This reviewer finds this ironic, since George Washington was a major distiller of spirits in eighteenth-century Virginia, producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey in 1798.(1)

Despite the historical influence of temperance and the extensive historiography of the movements, Paul D. Sanders has found that "very little has been written about the large volume of new lyrics it produced" (6). Sanders assesses George Ewing's Well-Tempered Lyre (1977) as presenting "an outstanding overview of the various themes of the movement," while Branham and Hartnett's Sweet Freedom's Song (2002) devotes some space to various melodies' usage. But "neither systematically presents the lyrics and tunes of the movement" (7). Sanders presents thirty-two tunes most often used by the movement, with hundreds of texts set to this music. He arranges these by category: patriotic songs, hymns and hymn tunes, traditional Scotch songs, popular songs, and Civil War songs. The fact that some of the tunes' original composers published these new lyrics demonstrates their support for the movement, such as George Root, in his rendition of "Yes, We'll Rally for the Right," set to the tune of "Battle Cry of Freedom."

"Civil War songs became ammunition for the temperance cause after 1867, and several tunes were used by the movement."  


In his introduction, Sanders, a professor of music at Ohio State University, Newark, presents a brief overview of the temperance movements and their relation to music. The organizations, along with their goals and methods, are described. Sanders begins each chapter with a brief historical essay that sets the context, a description of tunes used, a single vocal line in musical notation with the original lyrics, and several sets of lyrics set to the borrowed tune, all arranged chronologically. The pastiche, a known melody to which new words are added, was a prevalent form of popular songs and hymnody in nineteenth-century America. The author brings awareness to some songs that have faded from our contemporary memory. The tune "Bruce's Address" was popular during the Mexican War (1845-1848) and the Civil War, both as a battle song and a temperance song. Civil War songs became ammunition for the temperance cause after 1867, and several tunes were used by the movement. Sanders intersperses some political cartoons from the public domain, without commentary.

Another popular Civil War era song borrowed by the temperance movements was "Battle Hymn of the Republic," which inspired no fewer than 35 texts (though not all of them temperance themed). Known by the tune names of "Glory Hallelujah" and "Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us," it was composed by William Steffe in 1856. Early lyrics were the tune "John Brown's Body," which described abolitionist John Brown (1800-1859) and his failed attempt to raid Harper's Ferry. Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics many know as the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" for the Atlantic Monthly magazine of February 1862. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union and its publisher, the National WCTU Publishing House, in Evanston, Illinois, printed several songs in their songsters based on this melody. Some renditions of the tune were overt in their style, such as the "WCTU Battle Hymn," with the line "We're a band of Christian women marching at the Captain's word, With our Christian Temp'rance Union holding high the Spirit's sword." But Mary Lowe Dickinson, in her "Soldiers of the King," laid a general path of evangelical fighting against sin, with lines in the fourth verse nearing the issue at hand: "Our march is forward ever, with weapons gleaming bright; Our warfare is with sin and wrong; our watchword ‘For the right.'"

Sanders concludes by assessing four issues that exhibit the high quantity of new lyrics to existing tunes churned out by temperance writers. First was the relation of the text to the music. Of the approximately sixteen songs that used "The Star-Spangled Banner," five begin with Francis Scott Key's original phrase, "O say can you see," while most others make a minor variance to this text. Second, lyrics were seldom attributed, especially in early songsters. This was prior to the more stringent copyright laws enacted after the Civil War. Third, many temperance songs used coercion more than moral suasion. Fourth, music served as a panacea for influence (259-262).

The index lists persons, original titles and the temperance movements' song titles in a very navigable fashion. Jack S. Blocker's American Temperance Movements (Boston: Twayne, 1989) achieves a social and historical context for various temperance movements. George Ewing's Well-Tempered Lyre (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1977) presents a narrative history of the music used in temperance movements. Completing this trio of resources, Sanders's compilation in Lyrics and Borrowed Tunes of the American Temperance Movement serves as a quality reference tool that displays specific tunes and texts.

Ralph Hartsock
Senior Music Cataloger
University of North Texas

1. David J. Hanson, "George Washington: Major Distiller of Whiskey," Alcohol: Problems and Solutions Accessed Dec. 10, 2007.


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