The temperance movement of the 18th and early 19th centuries was a social movement dedicated to emphasizing the negative impacts of alcohol on health, morality, and family life and restricting its consumption. One of the first American organizations formed in support of temperance was the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1874. After the development of the First Plan of Work of the National Christian Temperance Union Convention in November 1874, the WCTU set out to ease the temptation of drinking alcohol by making sure that cities and towns had drinking water available. To accomplish this, the women erected drinking fountains across 25 states and 4 countries. If bubbling water was available at the curb, they reasoned, villagers and farmers coming to town would have no excuse to go through the swinging doors of the saloon.
While some of the fountains were quite simple, others incorporated beautiful statues and designs. Photography and history buffs can see these fountains in WCTU Drinking Fountains, compiled by Sarah F. Ward, ©2007, and recently cataloged by the Cataloging Maintenance Center (CMC) for the Dixon Public Library. Four of these fountains live right here in Illinois, including the original Temperance Girl fountain and statue, "The Little Cold Water Girl." "Little Cold Water Girl" was displayed in the WCTU booth during the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and today lives in Chicago's Lincoln Park. The other three fountains can be found in Decatur, Dixon, and Sullivan, Illinois.
The Cataloging Maintenance Center, which was contacted by the Dixon Public Library to help catalog this unique item, works to improve the quality and integrity of Illinois' bibliographic records. Funded by the Illinois State Library and operated by Illinois Heartland Library System, the CMC helps libraries and LLSAPs throughout all three Illinois library systems catalog special projects and upgrade bibliographic records, often at no charge. The CMC also provides training to catalogers, metadata consultation, database cleanup, and other services. To see if your library's or LLSAP's project qualifies for free help by the CMC and to learn more about what the CMC can offer, visit the Cataloging Maintenance Center webpage or call (618) 656-3216 ext. 503.
WCTU Drinking Fountains, compiled by Sarah F. Ward, ©2007