My friend Charlie waved me over to examine a large glass beer mug on a shelf at the Goodwill Store. He thought I might want to add it to one of my many collections. The artifact is quite hefty, solid, and obviously very old. Even though it showed years of active use and had a chip on its base, I knew I wanted to bring it home. The slogan, inscribed on the bottom of the mug was the main reason I wanted it. “Good Templars Pony”
The antique mug piqued my history antenna, because I knew there was some arcane meaning to the slogan. Right away, I figured it was something sarcastic because the mug was so huge. In bartender’s lingo, a pony is one fluid ounce. This mug could probably hold two pints. What was up with this thing?
There was very little information about this type of beer mug online. One source said the vessel was manufactured by the Central Glass Company from Wheeling, West Virginia. Pattern number 117 was made in the 1870s. I found one other source. Someone had an identical mug for sale. Within the description were these enticing sentences: “This large glass beer mug is embossed in the base “Good Templars Pony”, a reference to the anti-alcohol group the Good Templar’s, first started in the mid-1800’s. Since a pony mug typically holds a small amount of liquid, this Good Templars pony mug takes a jab at the group by easily holding two pints of brew.”
More research revealed that these “Good Templars Pony” mugs were widely used in saloons and bars. For a nickle, you could get two pints of brew served in a Good Templars Pony mug and a free lunch. What a thrill! My latest mug is a relic of the old, Wild West. One question remained. What is or was the anti-alcohol organization, “International Order of Good Templars”?
I found out that the Good Templars still exists as a worldwide non-governmental organization. They now call themselves “IOGT”. I found this mission statement or membership concept on their website:
“We are a worldwide community of non-governmental organizations, made up of people of all ages regardless of gender, colour, nationality, religious belief, sexual orientation, social position or political persuasion
–who live, advocate and never compromise on a life free of alcohol and other drugs
–who are passionate about helping other people find pure joy of life.”
The Good Templars organization predates Alcoholics Anonymous by several decades. They not only advocate against intoxicating substances, they actively advocate for and lobby lawmakers in different nations for “efficient alcohol policies”. Interestingly, the Good Templars have reinvented themselves and are integrated into the global social activism community.
During the 1830s more people were organizing themselves into anti-drinking groups. The temperance movement began with such clubs as “The Sons of Temperance”, “The Daughters of Temperance”, “The Independent Order of Rechabites”, and several other groups, loosely modeled after secret societies. Many of these groups stayed solvent by selling life insurance policies to their members.
In 1845, one of those early groups established themselves as “The Marshall Temperance Fraternity”. They later renamed themselves “The Marshall Temple”, then “Sons of Honor”. They finally decided on the name “The Templars of Honor and Temperance”. That particular “secret society” is no longer in existence.
Meantime, another temperance group was formed in 1851 in Utica, New York. The “Knights of Jericho” was also inspired by Freemasonry in that they used aprons and collars. The “Knights” had a three-degree system of hierarchy. The Knights of Jericho claimed they were better than their competitors, “The Son’s of Temperance”, because they did not sell life insurance to the membership. By the late 1850s the Knights were known as the “Good Templars”.
Just prior to the American Civil War, the Good Templars drafted a political platform of six points that solidified the temperance movement.
1. Total abstinence from all intoxicating liquors as a beverage.
2. No license in any form or under any circumstance for the sale of such liquors to be used as a beverage.
3. The absolute prohibition of the manufacture, importation, and sale of intoxicating liquors for such purposes by law.
4. The formation of a “healthy public opinion” upon the subject by active dissemination of truth in all the modes known to an “enlightened philanthropy”.
5. The election of good, honest men to administer the laws.
6. Persistence in efforts to save individuals and communities from so direful a scourge against all forms of opposition and difficulty until our success is complete and universal.
Obviously, these points helped instigate an organized opposition to temperance by those people who wanted to continue making and selling alcoholic beverages and the people who enjoyed consuming such products. This would be one motivation for the slogan on the bottom of my beer mug. Also germane, is that the Good Templars boasted a membership of more than 400,000 in 1869.
The Good Templars were major movers and shakers who coexisted with such groups as the “Women’s Christian Temperance Union” and the overtly political “Prohibition Party”.
The Blue Jay of Happiness stumbled across an unexpected quote by the Confederacy’s General Robert E. Lee. “My experience through life has convinced me that, while moderation and temperance in all things are commendable and beneficial, abstinence from spirituous liquors is the best safeguard of morals and health.”