Friday, February 20, 2009
Temperance Fountain (c. 1880)
Henry Cogswell, a wealthy San Franciscan who made a fortune from real estate and mining stocks, donated elaborate water fountains to approximately 15 cities across the United States. His belief that Americans drank too much alcohol was made manifest in each fountain installation.
No two were alike. At Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street, a few steps from the National Archives building, a water crane sits atop the DC temperance fountain, which is no longer operational. In the center are two large dolphins, and at the top of each of the four sides is a cardinal virtue: Faith, Hope, Charity – and “Temperance.”
Washington’s Cogswell Society was a raucous, toungue-in-cheek all male organization that met on the first Friday of each month. Membership was by invitation only, and strictly limited to a dozen men. Former members were Mark Russell and John McLaughlin. At their luncheons the master of ceremonies was known as the “lead (as in the metal) Heron,” a reference to the water bird atop the fountain. He would then offer a toast to Temperance, and the proper response was, “I'll drink to that” (while raising a glass of wine). Corny jokes and ribald humor would then ensue. It is also an odd irony that, for years, an Apex Liquor Store stood right on Indiana Square, where DC’s Cogswell Temperance Fountain is installed.
Presidential Disobedience: Woodrow Wilson maintained a small wine cellar in his home on S Street NW after his retirement, even though it was during his tenure as president that the 18th Amendment was enacted. Warren Harding, though he had voted for the 18th Amendment under pressure from the Anti-Saloon League, served highballs to his Poker Cabinet. Herbert Hoover found a perfectly legal dodge: While secretary of commerce under Harding, he would often drop by the Belgian Embassy at cocktail time, where the principle of Diplomatic Immunity applied.