James Black photo

James Black
(Presidential candidate

 The first Presidential candidate of the Prohibition Party, James Black, was born in Lewisburg, Union county, Pennsylvania, September 16, 1823.  He was the first son of John Black, a [prominent contractor.  After going through a common school and the Lewisburg Academy, he began the study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1846.  Ten years before this his people had removed to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he lived up to the time of his death, which occurred on December 16, 1893.
     When seventeen years of age, Mr. Black joined the Washingtonians, and in 1946 he helped institute a division of the Sons of Temperance.  Originally a Democrat, in 1854 he became a Republican, remaining so until the organization of the Prohibition Party..  He was chairman, in 1852, of the Lancaster county Prohibition committee, organized by a convention of men determined to secure a State Prohibitory law like that of Maine.  At  the Chicago convention in 1869 which organized the Prohibition Party, Mr. Black was permanent chairman.  At the new party's convention, held in February, 1872, at Columbus, Ohio, he was nominated as its candidate for President of the United States, and in the election that followed he received 5,608 votes,  For the four years, from 1876 to 1880, he was chairman of the National Committee of the Prohibition Party.  He was also active along other lines of temperance work.  He was one of the founders of the National Temperance Society and Publication House, and was chairman of the committee that prepared its charter, constitution, rules of publication, and secured a capital of $100,000 as a basis of operations.  From 1858 to 1862 he was Grand Worthy Chief Templar of the Pennsylvania Good Templars.  In 1864 he prepared and presented to President Lincoln a memorial for the abolition of whisky rations; in the United States Army.  Mr. Black's library, containing probably a larger collection of temperance literature (over 1,200 volumes) than any other private library in the world, was bequeathed to the National Temperance Society.  Among the works published by him are:  "Is there a Necessity for a Prohibition Party?" (1875), "A brief  History of Prohibition" (1880), an "A History of the Prohibition Party" (1885).
     Prominent as a layman in the Methodist Episcopal Church, he was one of the twenty-six who, in 1869, organized the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, at Ocean Grove, Jew Jersey.   Two children survive him.

— Data from An Album of Representative Prohibitionists (1895)

photo of James Black  

Lancaster’s forgotten Presidential candidate. On Dec. 16, 1893 the Hon. James Black died at his home at 323 N. Duke St. (now the Iris Club) He was an American temperance movement leader, founder of Prohibition Party in 1869, and its first presidential nominee in 1872 election. However, he won only 5,608 votes.

In 1854 he had been active in the creation of the Republican Party and served as a delegate to the first national nominating convention of the Republican Party in 1856. He left when the party came under the influence of the Brewers Association of the United States after the Civil War. He helped found the “National Temperance Society and Publication House” and was said to have had the largest collection of temperance publications in the world, with 1,100 bound books, 2,000 pamphlets and 5,000 distinct tracts. He was one of the 26 who, in 1869, organized the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, at Ocean Grove, New Jersey – still a dry town.

When he was 16 years old he became a member of the engineer corp completing the Susquehanna and Tide-water canal, running from Columbia to Harve-de-Grace. The rest of the gang drank and he became intoxicated. On sobering up he was so ashamed and disgusted that he “prayed God to preserve him from another such humiliation” and became forever abstinent from alcohol.

James was a member of First Methodist since 1842 when he started teaching Sunday school. He was superintendent of the school for 30 years, church trustee from 1846–1873, a long-time member of the board of stewards of the Philadelphia Conference and “probably did more than any other man to organize the East King St. M. E. mission church” between Plum and Ann Streets. He is buried in Woodward Hill Cemetery. Learn more at bit.ly/JBlack1893

Source:  First United Methodist Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  First Methodist
was Black's church.  Located by Jeff Quinton, provided by J. David Gillespie.

James Black obit

Lancaster Intelligencer 20 December 1893, p.3.

(The following was transcribed from an OCR copy; the words probably are correct, the numbers may not be.)

Hon. James Black dead – the Greatest Temperance Advocate of Pennsylvania.
A sketch of his Long and Eventful Career, an Enemy of Liquor since Youth, Once ran for President.
Hon. James Black died at his residence, No. 323 North Duke Street, at 8 o’clock on Saturday.  He was in failing health for some time, but it was only within a day or two that his illness was considered to be dangerous.  The cause of his death was pneumonia.
     Mr. Black was born in Lewisburg, Union County, Pa. on the 23d of September, 1823.  He was the eldest son of the late John Black, of Lancaster, a contractor who in his time built some of the most important railroad and other public works in this country and in Canada.
     James remained with his parents in Lewisburg until he was about twelve years of age, working on a farm and, like President Garfield, for several summers in his boyhood drove horses and mules on the Pennsylvania and Union canals.  His parents left Lewisburg in the spring of 1830 and removed to Lancaster, bringing James along with them, and the lad was employed during the summers of 1836 and 1837 sawing lath in a sawmill on the Conestoga.  In 1839, when only sixteen years of age, he became a member of the engineer corps engaged in completing the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal, running from Columbia Borough to Havre-de-Grace.
     During the years 1841, ’42, and ’43 he attended school at the Academy of Lewisburg, where he completed his English education and became well grounded in Latin and Greek.  In 1844, being of age, he began the study of law with James F. Linn, of Lewisburg, and in the following year returned to Lancaster, completing his legal studies under the preceptorship of Col. Wm. B. Fordney, and was admitted to the bar in 1840[?].  For many years, he practiced his profession in the Lancaster courts.
     Mr. Black gained his greatest distinction as a temperance worker. / From his boyhood he had been a total abstainer.  It is related of him that when he was 16 years old, working among a gang of engineers on the Tidewater Canal, all of whom drank liquor, he became intoxicated.  On sobering up, he was so ashamed and disgusted with himself that he prayed God to preserve him another such humiliation, and the prayer appears to have been answered, as from that day to this he has not only eschewed drink, but has been a leading spirit in the crusade against it.  In 1840, he connected himself with the first temperance organization that presented itself to his notice.  This was one of the old Washington associations in which men “took the pledge” of total abstinence and induced others to do so; held weekly meetings, gathered in the men and women of the neighborhood; had temperance lectures, and did outside work in the cause of temperance reform.
     Much good was accomplished, but much drunkenness still prevailed in the community, and more efficient measures were deemed necessary to check the terrible evil.  In 18[??] Mr. Black helped to organize the Conestoga division of Sons of Temperance of this city.  The order spread with great rapidity in all parts of the country, but to the grief of the “Sons” and the “Daughters of Temperance,” dram drinking and drunkenness continued to prevail.
     More effective measures were deemed necessary, and in 1852 the temperance men resolved to enter the political arena.  A temperance county convention was called, and by unanimous consent James Black was appointed chairman.  A temperance legislative ticket as nominated, and a few days afterwards Mr. Black delivered his first public temperance speech at Conestoga Centre, making a strong argument in favor of the adoption of a prohibition liquor law.
     During the campaign, he was the acknowledged leader of the Prohibition party, spoke to large audiences in different parts of the county, and collected considerable money to carry on the campaign.  When the election came on the old political parties were astonished to find that the Prohibitionists had polled 1,800 votes.  In the succeeding year, 1853, they increased their vote to 3,600, in 1854 to 5,400, and in 1855 by combination with other parties they succeeded in electing two out of the five members to the state Legislature.  These results were largely due to Mr. Black’s incessant labors. 
     He was not only the leader of the Prohibition party in the county, but was a member of the state central Prohibition committee from 1853 to 1860, and chairman of selected committee to interrogate the candidates for governor (Pollock and Biglur) in the campaign of 1854 as to their views on prohibition.  In the campaigns of 1853-4, Mr. Black not only contributed to the county campaigns, but paid out of his private resources $500 per year into the state temperance treasury.  The Prohibition party was not in politics to any extent from 1857 to 1865.  The Missouri Compromise, followed by the Civil War, absorbed the attention of the people and prohibition was practically overlooked.
     In 1859 Mr. Black conceived the idea of starting a Temperance Publication society to furnish temperance literature on the general plan of the Methodists, Presbyterian, and other publication societies in existence for furnishing religious reading to their respective denominations.   He wrote an article on the subject; for the American Temperance Union which as favorably received.  The intense excitement then existing and the four years of war that followed prevented any immediate action.
     In 1865, after the war closed, a national temperance meeting was held.  Mr. Black presented to it a carefully prepared paper in advocacy of the publication house.  It met with hearty approval and a committee of twelve was appointed, with Mr. Black as chairman, to raise $190,000 and provide for the organization of the publication society.  Associated with him were eleven of the leading Prohibitionists of the United States.
     Upon Mr. Black, as originator of the scheme, devolved the principal labor of the organization.  He wrote out the plan, the charter, constitution, by-laws, rules of order, rules of publication & cetera.  These he printed and sent to the members of the joint committee and to other prominent temperance men throughout the union, accompanied by letters asking for amendments.  With trifling exceptions these men approved the work he had so well done.  He then called the committee together; his plan was unanimously approved, and the “National Temperance Society and Publication House” was organized.  Since its organization this publication house has issued thousands of publications, aggregating many hundred thousands volumes and millions of pages.
     In 1857, Mr. Black organized Lancaster Lodge of Good Templars.  This organization spread rapidly, and in 1863 a state organization was formed of representatives of the lodges throughout the commonwealth.  He was elected the first Grand Worthy Chief Templar, and was re-elected for three successive years.  During his administration as chief officer the lecture system was introduced.  At the session of the Right Worthy Grand Lodge of the United Sates, held in Nashville in 1860, Mr. Black was chairman of the committee on the state of the order, and held the position for several years, contributing a number or temperance papers that attracted much attention.  In 1864 he was elected Right Worthy Grand Councilor, and prepared a memorial to President Lincoln of the subject of the abolition of the whisky ration.   At the request of the Grand Lodge he also wrote his celebrated “Cider Tract,” a paper aimed at those temperance people who indulged in cider drinking.  The tract was accepted as an authority on the question, and the cider drinkers were compelled to give up the beverage or leave the order.
     He was prominent in securing the union of the Sons of Temperance and good Templars for political action, and at the joint convention of both orders he was made the first president.  At the national Prohibition convention in Cleveland, Ohio, when it was decided to enter politics, Mr. Black was on the committee on resolutions and wrote the platform of that body.  In 1871, at the urgent request of a friend and client, who owned the Black Barren mineral springs property, in the lower end of this county, Mr. Black bought the property at sheriff’s sale and held it for his friend for several years.  Owing to financial difficulties his friend was unable to redeem it, and as the property was running down in value Mr. Black took entire possession of it in 1878, and from that time on improved it.  Today it is one of the finest farms in the lower end, and the spring upon it is regarded as one of the best mineral springs in the country.  Mr. Black recently purchased 130 acres of land adjoining the Black Barren Springs, and he was at the time of his death engaged in sheep raising, having extensive herds upon the grazing lands just purchased.
     On the 1st and 2d of September 1869, the “National Prohibition Party” was organized in Chicago, and James Black was president of the convention.  He was chairman of the National Prohibition Committee from 1876 to 1880, and had much to do with outlining and writing the party platforms.  At the national convention in 1872, he was made the Prohibition candidate for president of the United States.  In that campaign the total Prohibition vote of the country was only 5,608.  Mr. Black was not disheartened by the small vote polled.  He held to his dying day that the time was not far distance, when Prohibition will question.
(The OCR rendering becomes garbled at this point.)
     Mr. Black has from boyhood been a book-worm.  The first money he earned in driving mules on the Union Canal he invested in books.  From that time to the day of his death he has been adding to his library, and at the time of his death he had one of the largest and best libraries in the city.  His collection of temperance publications is the largest and most valuable in the world, embracing over 1,00 bound volumes, 2,000 distinct pamphlets, and 5,000 distinct tracts, and so well were they arranged in his library that he could lay his hand on any one of them at a moment’s notice.
     He was the author of several works.  Among them were, “Is there a necessity for a Prohibition party,” “A History of the Prohibition Party,” “The Prohibition Party.”
     Mr. Black was a member of the M.E. Church since 1842.  He was a trustee of the Duke Street church from 1846 to 1873, and a member of the board of stewards of the Philadelphia conference for many years.  He did probably more than any other man to organize the East King Street mission.  He was a Sunday school teacher for many years, and for thirty years consecutively was superintendent of the school., resigning a few years ago on account of impaired health.
      While Mr. Black never took a very prominent position at the Lancaster bar as an attorney in criminal or civil practice, he was always the foremost many in scrutinizing the applications for liquor license and opposing all against whom there were remonstrances or where there was the slightest reason why the application should not be granted.
     He was a very successful pension agent, and he secured more pensions than any man in the business in this community.
     In 1850-52, Mr. Black was financial agent in the construction of the Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad (now known as the “Grand Trunk Line” from Montreal, Canada to Portland, Me., a distance of 300 miles) which was built by Mr. Black’s father and John M. Wood.    

     In 1869, he became one of twenty-six who organized the “Ocean Grove Association,” now one of the most popular watering places in the Atlantic coast.  He was one of the officers of the association at the time of death.
     From 1839 to 1833 (sic) Mr. Black was the local agent of the Mutual Life Insurance of New York, and in this capacity insured an immense number of lives.  A stress of other business compelled him to relinquish the agency.
     About the year 1882 he was one of the interested parties who attended a meeting of the creditors of the Danville, Hazelton, & Willes-Barre Railroad company, of which his father was a heavy bondholder.  The company had defaulted, and the creditors who attended the meeting to…. Mr. Black arose, made a few practical suggestions, the force of which were acknowledged by all present, and by unanimous consent he was appointed to draft a report, which was adopted, and resulted in the foreclosing of the mortgages against the old company under the title of the Bunbury, Hazleton & Wilkesbarre Railroad.  It is now owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad and is a part of its system, and its bonds which were almost worthless, now pay a handsome dividend.
     Member of Monterey Lodge of Odd Fellows for many years.  He was a trustee of that lodge until a few years ago, when he retired on account of failing health.  Mr. Black’s wife died several years ago.  His surviving children are Mrs. E. Lane Schofield, of Chambersburg, whose husband died a few weeks ago; and Capt. Wm. Black, of the United States Army.  His surviving brothers are John, druggist, on East German Street; William, of Williamsport, and Reuben, of North Dakota.


Also see bibliographies:

  • Black, James (1880) – Brief History of Prohibition and of the Prohibition Party:  NYC, Prohibition National Committee