It may as well be true that Prohibition might have never come about if the Anti-Saloon League hadn’t existed. And the League might have never been powerful enough without the dedication and drive of his unquestioned leader, Wayne Wheeler.
Throughout the history of the US, there have been many temperance movements and organisations. The all-male Washingtonians, or the predominantly female WCTU were the most influential. These organisations had mostly been social groups, organised around one or more social issues but some, like the Prohibition Party, were politically involved.
When the Anti-Saloon League was founded in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1893, it was soon clear this was a different organisation. First of all, the League had just one, very clear goal toward which all resources were focused: the war against alcohol. Second, it was apolitical. This allowed it to support one or the other political party base on their position regarding Prohibition and nothing else. The party’s affiliation or their position on other issues were irrelevant to the League. Third, it was independently funded and it operated its own publishing house, which allowed it to pursue its own goal without any external interference.
The action of the anti-Saloon League was never more ruthless – and efficient – than under Wayne Wheeler’s leadership. Wheeler was never president of the League, yet his drive led the League’s action for over two decades.
Having witnessed the evils of drunkenness in his own family at an early age, he profoundly despised alcohol and what it did to men. This personal disgust made his social action nearly obsessive in pursuing national Prohibition. He was clearly a born politician, although he never entered the political arena. His knee sense of politics and use of power turned him into one of the more powerful men in America in the first decades of the 1900s. He manipulated men and politics with unsurpassed ability.
He was already a pre-eminent figure when the final goal of the League was set at its 20th Anniversary in Columbus, Ohio, in 1913: national Prohibition of alcohol through a constitutional amendment. Wayne Wheeler achieved it in 1919.
Prohibition would be law in the United States for thirteen years.
Alcohol. Problems and Solutions – Anti-Saloon League: Promoted Prohibition Aggressively
Alcohol. Problems and Solutions – Wayne Wheeler
Westerville Public Library – Anti-Saloon League
Interneet Archive – History of the Anti-Saloon League by Ernest Hurst Cherrington, The American Issues Publishing Compani, Westerville, Ohia, 1913 (PDF)
Kobler, John, Ardent Spirits. The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Da Capo Press, New York, 1973