The Anti-Saloon League, an Ohio-founded American temperance organization, led the crusade for a saloon-less society with the motto “The saloon must go.” From 1893 to 1933, the League was a major force in American politics, influencing the United States through lobbying, campaigning, and a flood of anti-liquor literature. The League moved its printing operations to Westerville, Ohio in 1909 and produced persuasive literature to gather support for the 18th amendment and the beginning of the Prohibition era. To preserve and share the legacy of the League, the Westerville Public Library’s Local History Center opens the Anti-Saloon League Museum to the public Monday through Friday 9:00am-6pm and by appointment.
Beth Weinhardt, the coordinator of the Anti-Saloon League Museum for twenty years, believes the League “was the most powerful organization” in the fight to pass the 18th amendment. In the fall of 2011, the museum was featured in a Ken Burns’ documentary film series on Prohibition. A career highlight for Weinhardt, the museum was first contacted in 2008, with researchers spending time in the museum in the spring of 2009. Three days before the documentary premiered, Burns and his co-producer Lynn Novick visited the museum, had lunch in the Westerville Public Library, and spoke at Otterbein University and OSU. The moderator of the evening program at OSU was a visitor of the museum and concentrated the discussion on the museum’s extensive collection of Anti-Saloon League literature.
Weinhardt oversees day-to-day operations, works with researchers and educators, and provides programming for the public. The collection serves local school groups, but also receives inquires from across the U.S. and abroad. Because the collection of printed material by the League is of international interest, the museum has coordinated with diverse projects from providing material to a company preparing tests for use with students in the United Kingdom, displaying items at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library, and working with numerous media production companies preparing documentaries. The largest age group who tours the museum are third graders studying local history as part of a walking tour of Westerville. While Weinhardt doesn’t know if the young students “can totally grasp the importance of the league,” she hopes “to plant some seeds” that will bring the students back as they continue to study U.S. history.
The museum, a part of Alliance’s region 6, has two full-time employees and one part-time employee. The annual and regional meetings with the Alliance assist the League museum as the coordinators try to find ways to be more effective and efficient with a small staff. The meetings provide members with the opportunity to see what other organizations are accomplishing and to learn new tools to assist the museum move towards more relevance and better practices. Weinhardt believes the core values of the Alliance are important for every museum and local history organization to embrace and the meetings help the League museum focus on demonstrating these values to the public.
The museum is housed in a building from the 1850s that was originally owned by a local stagecoach driver and inn owner. A part of the Underground Railroad, the owner hid runaways in the cellar of the building across the street. The museum is located on 126 S State Street, Westerville, Ohio. To contact the museum, email Beth Weinhardt at email@example.com or call (614) 882-7277.