Sons of Temperance Insignia

By Melissa Cole, Curator

The Temperance movement heavily criticized excessive alcohol use, promoted abstinence, and pressured the government to completely prohibit the use of alcohol. The trend of temperance caught on in the middle of the nineteenth century, and its effects were felt in many countries around the world.  Reverend Robert Dick of Toronto arranged to form an organized Temperance movement in Oshawa. After little debate, The Sons of Temperance attained their 35th Chapter with the addition of the Oshawa Division on November 6, 1849.

Oshawa’s Sons of Temperance Hall

The Oshawa Division held their meeting at the Commercial Hotel at the corner of Centre and King Streets and later moved their meetings to the Simcoe St. Methodist (United) Church.  The group discussed many issues on the topic of temperance.  The issue of most importance was that of creating sweeping reforms that would eliminate “local groggeries” and bar rooms.  The group had a very talented orator named Edward Carswell who would travel through the United States and Canada speaking on the topic of abstinence and the evils of drink. The Oshawa Division gave the movement a strong and passionate speaker as well as a gathering place for Ontario’s annual Sons of Temperance meeting.  Any decisions that were reached and toasts that were made were all celebrated with a glass of cold water in this alcohol free environment.

The Sons of Temperance created a constitution, the primary article of which was Article 2 which stated that “No brother shall make, sell or use as a beverage, any Spirituous or Malt Liquors, Wine or Cider.”  Should a brother violate Article 2 of the constitution that brother will be investigated and a “trial” will occur and presiding over this “trial” will be a panel of 5 brothers.  Should the charge be sustained, the brother may be expelled from the organization. 

The organization had a strict set of rules and expectations for anyone who wanted to become a member. Their constitution stated that the candidate must be at least 18 years of age, be nominated by someone within the brotherhood, and have good moral character.  He must also have a proper way of earning a living and therefore have visible means of support.  Although the constitution stated that the age of maturity into this fellowship was 18, a number of their members were younger than that.  The youngest member of No. 35, the Oshawa Division, was 14 years of age.

The brotherhood provided support for each other in their constitution in case of any misfortune.  The constitution provided benefits to the family in the amount of no less than 15 dollars if a brother should die; should the wife pass away then the benefit is no less than 10 dollars towards their funeral costs.  Should a brother become ill with a sickness or disability he was entitled to no less than one dollar a week, however, if it can be proven that the sickness/disability was due to improper conduct then the brother forfeits his benefit.

In our collection, we have a wooden object that can be described as Triangular in shape, open in the middle and in the centre of that is a wooden star. There are words written on the three sides of the triangle: in white on side one is ‘PURITY;’ on another side in blue is written ‘FIDELITY;’ and, the third side features the word ‘LOVE’ written in red. 

What do these three words represent?  The Sons of Temperance held passionate moral views about the evils of excessive drinking.  Their slogan was “Love, Purity, Fidelity.”  The group had a strong international voice on the issues of temperance and survived into the new century with a large following and legislation that aided them in their quest for purity.  This particular artefact is an example of moral views that were held by the Sons of Temperance in Oshawa. 


Watch Melissa’s video podcast about the Sons of Temperance Insignia