William Frederick Varney

William Varney was an influential Prohibitionist in New York.  In addition to being the national Prohibition Party candidate for President in 1928, he ran for various New York offices on the Law Preservation Party ticket.

-- Gammon, 2007, p. 106

     The Long Island Press published this feature article about Varney on the occasion of his 50th wedding anniversary (reprinted in the National Prohibitionist, Nov-Dec 1955, p. 2):
     Prohibition -- that "noble experiment" of the Roaring Twenties -- is heading for a come-back.
     So says its foremost champion -- William F. Varney of Rockville Center -- Prohibition Party candidate for President in 1928.
     The "noble experiment" failed, according to Varney, only because it "lacked honest enforcement."
     "You can have the best law in the land -- but if you do not have a major party that's committed to enforce it to the hilt -- it's foredoomed to failure," he declared.
      Varney made the nominating speech for Enoch Holtwick, of Illinois, the Prohibition Party's 1956 presidential candidate.  The convention was held at Milford, Indiana.
     "I'll help in any way I can the coming campaign too" he promises.  Varney, now a robust 71, has mellowed in the years since 1928 when he stumped the country expounding the horrors of strong drink.  But his attitude and thinking haven't changed one bit.
     Tall and erect, Varney lives with his wife, Leonia, at 143 Grand Avenue.
     Varney learned the 
ABC of politics in a seven-year career as field secretary with the New Jersey Prohibition Committee in 1924.  Four years later he was named the party's candidate for President, opposing  Al Smith and Herbert Hoover.
     He polled comparatively few votes, but he was resigned to it.  "We never expected to win, of course.  Our main idea was to educate the American people to the social and economic ruin resulting from alcohol."
     In 1933, Varney missed being elected mayor of Rockville Centre by a few votes.  "Prohibition will come back -- it has to come back -- with the aid of conscientious people," he says.
     Although he has been suffering from diabetes for the past 25 years, he refuses to take insulin, even though it was prescribed by his doctor.
     "The way I see it," he says, "liquor or any strong drug will eventually break down some body organs.  I have diabetes and I'm 71 years old, yet I bowl and go row boating.  These are some pretty strenuous activities."
     Varneys celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last August 31.  Toasting them -- with water -- at a golden wedding celebration -- were their son, William F. Varney, Jr., a Rockville Centre attorney, and two daughters, Mrs. W. Everrett Mott, of East Rockaway, and Mrs. Austin Schupp, of Oceanside.

William Fredrick Varney was born on October 1st, 1884, in Patterson, New Jersey. He as the son of Rev. F.W. Varney. He worked in the textile industry in New Jersey and Long Island from 1902 to 1919, and had worked as an insurance agent from 1919, to 1957. At some point he established his permanent home in Rockville Centre, New York. Varney joined the Prohibition Party in 1906. In 1910, he ran in the 1st district of the New York State Senate. He received 458 votes (1.51%) and came in 3rd place. He was country chairman for the party in 1912. He worked as a field secretary for the Prohibition Party in New Jersey from 1912 to 1919. He had helped direct successful election campaigns in Gloucester County in 1914. In 1924, he was considered as a possible nominee for President at the 1924 convention and came in 3rd place, behind 1924 Prohibition Party candidate Herman P. Faris, and A.P. Gouttey. He served on the Prohibition National Committee for New York from 1924-1928. In 1928, the condition for the Prohibition Party was somewhat grim. There were challenges against national prohibition. The promise of Republican candidate Herbert Hoover to protect prohibition, combined with anti-Catholic backlash against Democratic candidate Al Smith served to pressure voters to vote for Hoover instead of the Prohibition Party candidate, and elements of the Prohibition Party wanted to shy away from challenging Hoover. But William Varney through his hat in the ring and become the party’s 1928 candidate for President. During the 1928 election, Varney campaigned for strengthening enforcement of national prohibition. He stated that “The wet and dry issue is the only real issue in the coming campaign. I will abide no consideration of religious prejudice in my fight for the presidency. This is a free country and its people have the right to vote any way they please regardless of religious beliefs.” "I could never identify myself with a party which licensed the traffic of alcohol," "A divided constituency will never achieve the enforcement of prohibition. Lincoln said no man can be half slave and half free. I maintain no party can be half wet and half dry. There should be no pussyfooting.” In the election, he received 20,106 votes. While these results may not have been large compared to previous elections, Varney still managed to do fairly well, given the challenging circumstances he was in. In 1932, Varney ran for New York’s 1st congressional district. He received 4,195 votes (1.48%), and came in 4th place. And in 1933, he ran for Mayor of Rockville Center. In 1934, Varney ran as the Prohibition Party candidate for governor under the Law Preservation ticket (at the time the New York Prohibition Party was using name Law Preservation, in connection to its support for preserving national prohibition). He received 20,449 votes (0.54% and came in 5th place). Unfortunately, this was not enough votes for the Prohibition Party to be able to maintain its automatic ballot access in the state. Since that election, the Prohibition Party has not been able to get a candidate for Governor on ballot in New York in any election so far. Though the New York Prohibition Party continued for some time after that. In 1936, Varney was state chairman, and the Prohibition Party held its national convention in Niagara Falls, New York. The Prohibition Party managed to continue placing candidates on ballot for various offices in the state up to 1940. Though the Prohibition Party may have lost its ballot access in New York andeventually lost its state organization for a time, Varney had valiantly sought to preserve it. Varney passed away of December 14th, 1960.


"American Advance." Google Books. Accessed May 23, 2018.
"Endorsement of Vandenberg Threatens 'Dark Horse' Role." The Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, New York), April 30, 1936. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/30811938/.
Colvin, D. Leigh. Prohibition in the United States: A History of the Prohibition Party and of the Prohibition Movement. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1926. ""No Pussyfooting!"- Varney: Soft Pedal Tactics Hit By Nominee." Daily News (New York City), July 22, 1928. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/412415382/.
“Other Past Candidates: New York”. Partisan Prohibition Historical Society. Prohibitionists.org. Accessed March 29th, 2018. http://www.prohibitionists.org/Candidates/candidates.html
"Our Campaigns - Candidate - William Frederick Varney." Our Campaigns. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://www.ourcampaigns.com/CandidateDetail.html?CandidateID=4596.
Revolvy, LLC. "William F. Varney." Trivia Quizzes. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=William F. Varney. Storms, Roger. Partisan Prophets; a history of the Prohibition Party, 1854-1972. Denver: National Prohibition Federation, 1972. https://archive.org/details/PartisanProphetsAHistoryOfTheProhibitionParty1854-1972 Efforts to Protect Children

-- Contributed by Jonathan Makeley