This essay by John Harvey Kellogg appeared in Association Men, the official publication for Y.M.C.A. leaders during World War I. The piece caught my eye because so many people I encounter have an almost unreasonably nostalgic view of the past that does not make sense when looking at the world through the words of people living at the time. “People are people” and that has always been true.
The Decay of American Manhood
By J.H. Kellogg, M.D.,
Battle Creek, Michigan
History records nothing so wonderful as the development and progress of this great nation in the last hundred years.
But a blight has struck us.
American manhood is decaying.
We are going morally at a terrifying rate.
We have foes at home more deadly and destructive than our European enemies.
Davenport has shown that one in every hundred men is mentally defective, insane, epileptic, habitually criminal, or feeble-minded.
Recent military examinations have brought out most appalling facts.
Major Orr, a medical officer of the regular army, tells us that two to three out of every four applicants for the army are rejected as physically unfit.
Draft examinations show more than half our young men unfit for military training.
The examinations of the Life Extension Institute show only one man in a hundred wholly free from disease and physically fit. (more…)
Sunday schools began in England around 1780 to provide a basic education to the children of the poor on their day off. By 1810 Sunday schools and Sunday school societies were springing up in the Eastern United States. To reinforce the lessons taught on Sunday, many of the Sunday schools created libraries full of the “right kind” of books to improve the morals of the children.
The use of alcohol and tobacco were widely considered vices in the United States in the 19th century. Sunday school lessons often included commentary on those evils such as the small pamphlet, The Deadly Cigarette. In this tract, directed at boys, smoking is portrayed as a gateway habit to drinking and drinking was depicted as one of the greatest moral and cultural dangers of the era.
Influencing the behavior of kids by scaring the hell out them has a long history in America as you can see here:
“Let’s see what auntie says.” Presently two little boys came in.
“Please, Aunt Sarah,” asked James, “has anyone ever been known to be injured by cigarette smoking? We have learned,” he went on, “what the text-book says, and the teacher tells us it is ruinous; but some of the boys do smoke them, and say it doesn’t hurt at all.”
Aunt Sarah looked lovingly into the earnest faces upturned to hers, as she replied:
“Yes, my dears, I do know of boys ruined by cigarettes, ‘harmless’ ones, too, the dealer called them.”
“During the summer vacation three boys but little older than you, began smoking them. Before the fall term of school ended two were obliged to leave, Charlie having convulsions, and Edward, sore throat, both caused by tobacco poisoning, the doctors said. A few weeks later Charlie died; while Edward, in spite of the most skillful care and nursing that love and money could supply only lingered till early spring.”
“And the other boy, Auntie,” asked Harry, “what of him?”
“Well,” resumed Aunt Sarah, “he says ‘Tobacco never hurt me,’ but from being at the head of his class he has dropped down near the foot. Instead of being the industrious, ambitious, wide-awake boy of one year ago, he is now idle, careless, apathetic, enjoying nothing as much as what he calls a good smoke with some one as dull as himself.”
Nicotine poisoning shows itself in many forms, and often is not so quickly visible as in the cases I have mentioned; but you may be sure it is a viper that never forgets to bite. Like the alcohol curse there is no safety save in total abstinence from tobacco using. Avoid it as you would a deadly reptile.
–Word and Work
Through the years a variety of laws were passed in Nebraska to limit the sale of alcoholic beverages. But until the second decade of the 20th century, these laws fell short of complete prohibition.
Initially the prohibitionists pushed for a “county option” to permit individual counties —- as opposed to cities and towns — to declare themselves wet or dry. This allowed the prohibitionists to drum up support among rural residents far from towns who would not be directly effected the way business owners who served or sold liquor in towns were. In the end, that bill was defeated by the anti-prohibition forces.
Nationwide both sides used hyperbole, heavily biased statistics, and ominous rhetoric to promote their position, but this ad that ran in the The Alliance Herald in Box Butte County, Nebraska on October 19, 1916 takes the cake. (more…)