Temperance and prohibitionism has a long history in New York State. There were temperance societies in New York state as early as 1808. Over the following decades the temperance movement experienced significant growth an advancement in the state. Increasing awareness of the harmful nature of all forms of alcohol helped give rise to teetotalism (total abstinence from the consumption of alcohol), and teetotalism developed to become the mainstream position of the state’s temperance advocates. As the temperance movement developed, there were advocates who became increasingly aware of the social and economic practices that served to encourage and perpetuate drinking. That the producers and sellers and alcohol (who profited off harming others with their products) had a vested interest in encouraging and perpetuating the use of alcohol and would act within their power to impede the temperance movement. Prohibitionism arose as the means of tackling the social, economic, and political dimensions of the problem. By banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol and dismantling the alcohol industry, it could help pave the way for advancing a more comprehensive advancement of temperance. By the 1830’s and 40’s some communities had begun banning the sale of alcohol in their areas, and most others had adopted a license system, which determined who was allowed to sell alcohol in their areas. As time went on, local prohibition became increasingly prominent. In the 1850’s the movement for statewide prohibition laws had gained steam. In 1851, Maine passed the first statewide prohibition law. In 1854, the New York State Legislature passed its own statewide prohibition law. But it was vetoed by Governor Seymore. State Senator Myron Clark, a key advocate for the New York state prohibition law, ran against Seymore and was elected governor. Once in office, Clark signed the law and the first period of statewide prohibition in New York was established. Unfortunately, the law was struck down in state court several months later.
The Maine and New York state prohibition laws were part of the first wave of state level prohibition laws in the country. In the 1850’s 13 states had passed state level laws banning of restricting the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Though these would eventually be taken down by alcohol industry backed political or court challenges. These experiences helped inspire prohibition activists to embrace advancing prohibition through explicitly establish the power to ban alcohol in state and federal constitutions.
Following the civil war, prohibition advocates increasingly came to embrace national level advocacy. Furthermore, some supporters of prohibition concluded that the democratic and Republican Parties were too reliant on the alcohol industry and wet voters and were unlikely to fully embrace prohibition on their own. Some began to embrace the idea of creating a national political party dedicated to establishing prohibition and enacting other key reforms that the major parties were reluctant to embrace. In 1967, John Russell took on the task of trying to organize the Prohibition Party. He brought together a coalition of temperance activists and prohibition activists, as well as other reformists (such as former abolitionists and supporters of women’s suffrage).
On May 25th-27th, a group of prohibitionists met in Oswego, New York, to move toward organizing the Prohibition Party. A five-person committee (including New York temperance activist and writer John N. Stearns), was established to plan a national convention. The national convention was held on September 1st, 1869, and the Prohibition Party was formally established. The Prohibition Party established state level organization in New York and began running candidates in the state. In 1870, the New York Prohibition Party put up its first slate of statewide tickets, with Myron Clark as its first candidate for governor. And it began running candidates for congress at least as early as 1882. The New York Prohibition Party organized itself in a rather standard structure. It had an executive committee, including a state party chairman, secretary, and treasurer. There were county level organizations (with executive committees) and local organizations. The state party held conventions, in which representative members from across the state gathered to select the executive committee, formalize the state party platform, and select state level candidates for office. The state party selected people to serve on the Prohibition National Committee and delegates for national Prohibition Party conventions. In addition, during the late 19th century there was a neighborhood in Staten Island called Prohibition Park (now called Westerleigh), which had been a center of temperance and prohibitionist activity in the city. For a time, it had hosted a national Prohibition Party headquarters. The New York Prohibition Party helped to support the Prohibition Party’s presidential candidates for president, when they are able to get on ballot in the state. In 1884, Prohibition Party presidential candidate John St. John a strong performance in New York. So much so, that it’s believed that it helped cause the Republican candidate to lose New York, and consequently cause the Republicans to lose a presidential election for the first time since the civil war.
New York also helped to provide some of the candidates on our party’s presidential tickets. William F Varney (the Prohibition Party Presidential Candidate in 1928) and D. Leigh Colvin (the Prohibition Party Presidential Candidate in 1936) were both prominent Prohibition Party figures in New York State. Colvin had also been the Vice-Presidential candidate in 1920. Prohibition Party presidential candidates Clinton Fisk (1884), John Bidwell (1888), and Charles Eugene Bentley (Free Silver Prohibition candidate in 1896 were born in New York. Prohibition Party Vice Presidential candidates John Russel (1872) and Gideon T. Stewart (1876) were born in New York.
Throughout the late 19th to mid-20th century, the New York Prohibition Party ran candidates for numerous local, state, and state federal offices. Some candidates managed to win elections. For instance, in 1908, Mary Barger was elected city clerk of Jamestown. She was one of the first women to hold elected office in New York. There were also candidates who had strong performances. In 1890, Prohibition Party Candidate William W. Smith, in the 16th congressional district received 24.73%, of the vote and came in second place. In the same year, Alva Carpenter received 13.63% of the vote in the 31st district, and Jesse Rogers received 10.30% of the vote in 34th district. In 1892, George Hand received 11.48% of the vote in the 26th district. In 1918, Julius Rogers received 9.48% of the vote in the 34th district. In 1922, H. Westlake Coons received 8.99% of the vote in the 27th district. In 1932, Earnest Clark received 18.76% of the vote in 39th district, and Arthur Rathjen received 8.73% of the vote in 38th district. In 1920, Ella Boole received 159,623 votes for Senator. In 1930, Robert Carroll received 190,666 votes for Governor. 1914, John R. Clemens received 68,049 voted for secretary of state. In 1932, the party’s candidates for Senator, Governor, Lt. Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, and Congressman-At-Large, each received 68,000 to 75,000 votes. The New York Prohibition Party has nominated many different candidates with interesting life stories. For instance, John McKee, the party’s 1904 candidate for governor had come to New York City as a young working-class Irish immigrant and rose to become a successful real estate businessman and party activist. Alfred and Charles Manierre were two brothers, who were both lawyers, and both ran as a prohibition nominee for governor (Alfred in 1902, Charles in 1926). In 1914, the party nominated William Sulzer for governor. Sultzer had been governor in 1913. As governor, he took on state corruption and the power of Tammany Hall. In response, pro-Tammany politicians had him impeached (the only New York Governor to be impeached). While he didn’t win reelection, he made sure the Tammany Hall backed candidate lost as well. Besides running candidates for office, the New York Prohibition Party worked to advance its effort through issue advocacy and legislative activism. Prohibition Party activists worked to encourage state and local governments to pass stronger laws against alcohol and to enact other reforms.
The state was (and still is) also home to the national party’s main financial institution, the Prohibition Trust Fund Association. The Prohibition Trust Fund Association was established as an organization to help financially support the Prohibition Party and various other prohibition supporting organizations. Many of is bard members have been residents of New York an often-leading figures in the state party.
The New York Prohibition Party spent decades advocating for the establishment of prohibition in New York. This effort succeeded, when the 18th Amendment was passed in 1919. During the period of national prohibition, the New York Prohibition Party worked to promote strong enforcement of prohibition laws an defended its continued existence. In 1926, D. Leigh Colvin became national chairman of the Prohibition Party (a position he would hold until 1932). Colvin worked to help reinvigorate the party in New York State and nationally. This was being advanced in the state by figures such as then state chairman John McKee and Charles Manierre. In 1926, the Prohibition Party and a coalition of other groups supportive of national prohibition worked to support the senate campaign of former state senator Franklin Christman. Christman had launched a third-party campaign to challenge New York’s Republican Senator James Wadsworth (who was opposed to national prohibition and had voted against women’s suffrage). Christman had received over 230,000 votes and helped ensure the defeat of Wadsworth.
The New York Prohibition Party tried to prevent New York from ratifying the 21st Amendment. It ran dry candidates for the convention to ratify the 21st Amendment, in the hope of trying to get it defeated. Unfortunately, the 21st Amendment was ratified and national prohibition came to an end in 1933.
Though national prohibition had ended, the Prohibition Party continued, in New York and nationwide. In 1936, the national Prohibition Party conference was held at the Niagara Falls State Armory Building, in Niagara Falls, New York. D. Leigh Colvin was selected as the party’s first candidate after national prohibition. He would earn over 37,000 votes. The party’ national vote total would increase in each presidential election, until it reached its post national prohibition peak of over 103,000 votes in 1948.
The New York Prohibition Part continued to run candidates for several years after the end of national prohibition. The last recorded prohibition party candidates for the old state party organization were in 1940. The story of the reestablishment of the Prohibition Party’s state level organization starts with the 2016 presidential campaign. James Hedges’ presidential campaign generally helped to revitalize the Prohibition Party and helped to bring in new members. At the Prohibition Party’s 2017 conference, two newer Prohibition Party members from New York, Jonathan Makeley and Robert Emery joined Russell Hallock as members of the Prohibition National Committee. Shortly after the conference, Jonathan Makeley had begun communicating with other party members about the idea of reestablishing a state level party organization in New York state and took on the task of working to organize it. Jonathan Makeley, Robert Emery, and Russell became the main founding members of the reestablished Prohibition Party of New York. On September 8th, 2017, the reestablishment of the Prohibition Party of New York was publicly announced. Thus, a new chapter in the history of the Prohibition Party in New York State had begun.
And then here is another excerpt, also by Makeley:
Past State Party Leadership and Candidates
As we proceed forward, we are also looking to our past: to gain understanding and guidance. Here are some historical sources we have found, which provide some good information on the old New York Prohibition Party state organization.
In 1926, D. Leigh Colvin published his book, Prohibition in the United States: A History of the Prohibition Party and of the Prohibition Movement. The book included in its index, a list of the Governor Candidates, State Chairman, and National Committee Members.
This is what Colvin Listed:
New York. The candidates for Governor were: Myron H. Clark, ’70; C.C. Leigh, ’72; Myron H. Clark, ’74; William J. Groo, ’76; John W. Mears, ’79; A.A. Hopkins, ’82; H. Clay Bascom, ’85; W. Martin Jones, ’88; J.W. Bruce, ’91; Francis E Baldwin, ’94; William W. Smith, ’96; John Kline, ‘98; William T. Wardwell, ’00; John McKee, ’02; Alfred L. Manierre, ’04; Henry M. Randell, ’06; George E. Stockwell, 08; T. Alexander MacNicholl, ’10 and ‘12; William Sultzer, ’14; C.E. Welch, ’16; Charles S. Whitman (Rep), ’18; George F. Thompson, ’20; George K. Hinds, ’22; Charles E. Manierre, ’26.
The members of the National Committee were: William Hosmer, ’69; C.H. Mead, ’76-‘80; C.C. Leigh, ’76-‘80; Stephan Merritt, ’80-82; J.W. Grosvenor, ’80-82; Dr. T.J. Bissell, ’82-’88; J.O. Hazelton,’82-’84; J.W. Bruce, ’84-’88; H. Clay Bascom, ’80-’96; William T. Wardwell, ’88-’08; Fred F. Wheeler, ’96-’00; Francis E. Baldwin, ’00-’04 and ’16-’24; J.H. Durkee, ’04-’08;George E. Stockwell,’08-’12; C.E. Pitts, ’08-’12; Alexander T. MacNicholl, ’12-’16; Olin S.Bishop, ’12-’20; Mrs. D. Leigh Colvin, ’20-’28; William F. Varney, ‘24-’28.
The State Chairman were: D.T. J. Bissell, ’73; Fred F. Wheeler, ‘84-‘89; Francis E. Baldwin, ‘89-’93; Dr. Mitchell Downing, ’93-’98; J.H. Durkee, ’98-’07; C.E. Pitts, ’07-’12; O.S. Bishop, ’12-’19; W.H. Burr, ’19-’21; W.E. Moore, ’21; John McKee, ’22-’24.
It should be noted that Colvin made mistake in the governor’s list. Alfred Manierre was a governor’s candidate in 1902 and John McKee was the candidate in 1904. Also, McKee had been state chairman in 1926. So, it is likely that he returned to the chairmanship at some point between 1924 and 1926.
Another important source for the history of the New York Prohibition Party is a digitized version of the 1906 handbook of the Prohibition Party in New York.
The handbook provides a lot of information about the structure of the New York Prohibition Party at the time. It had an executive committee, including a state party chairman, secretary, and treasurer. There were county level organizations (with executive committees) and local organizations. The state party held conventions, in which representative members from across the state gathered to select the executive committee, formalize the state party platform, and select state level candidates for office.
From it can be seen that the 1906 state party’s executive committee consisted of Chairman J. H. Durkee of Rochester, Secretary Rev. Clinton J. Taft of Binghamton, Treasurer J.A. Hartman of Albion, and committee members William T. Wardwell of New York City, F. E. Baldwin of Elmira, Levi Hoag of Binghamton, Captain Henry M. Randall of Port Jefferson, Alfred Manierre of New York City, and James McNeil of Hudson.