M992.6.265.1-2 | Whisky bottle
1890-1900, 19th century
24 x 6 x 6 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Newlands Coburn
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Bottle (16)
Keys to History
The earliest temperance societies, which began in the 1820s, aimed at reducing the consumption of alcohol, not suppressing it completely. These groups, made up mostly of artisans, farmers, shopkeepers and clergymen, believed that by limiting his consumption of alcohol a man could improve his work habits and put his money to better use. However, towards the middle of the 19th century the majority of such societies opted for total abstinence when they realized that simple temperance was too difficult to manage. As industry boomed, the need for prohibition became really urgent: alcohol, it was thought, was the main cause of the poverty and wretched state of the working class. A number of leading unionists belonged to the temperance movement, hoping to rescue their members from indigence and enable them to pay their union dues. Teetotal workers, they believed, would be less likely to fall ill or injure themselves, and this would cut down on the sums paid out by union programmes of indemnity in case of illness, accident or death.
Whisky was one of the strong drinks vehemently denounced by the prohibitionists in their periodic campaigns between 1820 and 1920. The goal of the movement gradually changed, from reducing alcohol consumption to prohibiting the consumption, sale and production of alcoholic beverages.
As the label indicates, this whisky was sold in Montreal by P. H. Théoret. Until the establishment of the Quebec Liquor Commission in 1921, people purchased alcohol in general stores and grocery stores throughout the province. In 1836, Montreal counted 314 inns, 69 grocery stores with liquor licences and 500 illegal bars.
The bottle dates from the 1890s. Many prohibitionists then believed that alcohol was the principal cause of poverty and sickness.
French-Canadian reformists took a more moderate attitude. Beer and wine were seen as the drinks of moderation. Only hard liquor, like whisky, was denounced.