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Advertisement for Temperance Restaurant in New York City
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[TEMPERANCE]. Advertising card for “McElree’s Temperance Restaurant & Lunch Room” The other side promotes “McElree’s Centennial Mead” for 5¢ per glass, claiming that it is “Healthful and Cooling” and “pleases ALL NATIONALITIES and tastes,” ca. 1876, New York. 2 pp., 5 x 1¼ in.

Inventory #26460.02       Price: $300

The Temperance movement began in the early 1800s as a social movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverage. Primarily led by women, the movement emphasized the negative effects of alcohol on people’s health, family, and social lives. The Civil War caused a temporary halt in the movement, but it recommenced in the 1870s.

One of the goals of the movement was to develop alternatives to public bars and to alcohol as a beverage. McElree’s Temperance Restaurant at 15 Park Row was such an alternative location. For much of the 1870s, the address held a cigar store or an ale vault and billiard saloon. Some groups introduced temperance fountains to provide safe drinking water as an alternative to beer, as tea and coffee were too expensive. Among the alternatives that emerged in the 1870s were root beer, sarsaparilla, ginger ale, and centennial mead. The latter was made of water, brown sugar, tartaric acid, molasses, and additional flavors, often mixed with bicarbonate of soda to make the drink fizzy.

Both sides of this advertisement are illustrated with silhouette images of men of differing cultures, often drawing on racist caricatures, to declare that “All Nationalities” like McElree’s Centennial Mead.

In July 1877, the New York Tribune reported that “Sixteen ‘Centennial Mead’ establishments are now in full blast in this city,” but added, “The meed of praise can’t always be given to the beverage which they brew.”[1]

In March 1879, an advertisement appeared in the New York Herald that promised “A Competency for a Trifle—Owing to Ill health, requiring permanent residence in the South, the entire Fixtures for manufacturing and dispensing New York’s favorite summer drink, “McElree’s Centennial Mead,” with receipt [recipe] for making the same, is offered for $2,000 (half of this amount being refused two years ago for the receipt only); Fixtures, as now stored, cost over $3,000; $3,000 to $5,000 can be cleared each season from May to September; would give time on part secured by note and mortgage or trade for Stock of Merchandise. Full particulars address Fortune, Charleston, S.C.”[2]

Condition: Light edge wear; mounting residue on verso.

[1]New-York Tribune, July 24, 1877, 8:4.

[2]The New York Herald, May 23, 1879, 12:6.

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