Library Blog: Temperance & Vineger

Hello again, I apologize for not updating my blog for a while but I have been extremely busy with the library. I have, however, catalogued almost 3000 entries and made fair progress on the archive, which is leaps and bound ahead of where I was around the time of my last update. I have also been involved in the recent Remnants exhibition, as well as the launch of the online catalogue (which I still currently labour at.) As a result these blog posts will probably take more of a retrospective approach, as I have a lot of interesting finds ‘stored up’, so to speak. I may loosely theme each one … we’ll see what happens.

John Ellis & Temperance

First of all, however, I have some more discoveries relating to members of the Temperance League, whom I mentioned in my previous post, specifically a rather eye-catching fellow by the name of John Ellis. Such was his dedication to temperance that it led him to write no less than six publications on ‘the wine question’. As far as I can work out, without laboriously plodding through all six titles, ‘the wine question’ is aimed at whether Christians should drink any form of fermented liquid (e.g. during holy communion). As I’m sure you can guess, being a member of the Temperance League, Ellis’s answer to this question is a resounding no. Ellis takes this so far that in one of his publications entitled An appeal to the clergy and to all men in behalf of its life of charity; pertaining to diseases, their origin and cure; the use of intoxicants as beverages and for sacramental purposes; the use of tobacco and opium; the pernicious and destructive habits of women and the abuse of children; and the prevailing cruel treatment of girls and young women (very catchy title if you ask me) he even advises to abstain from vinegar, (or at the very most to use it sparingly).

The appetite for acids is unquestionably a natural appetite; and when suitable acids are used temperately they supply a want, and are useful; but vinegar, being the product of decomposition, as we would expect, very imperfectly, if at all, supplies this want. It will not, like lemon or lime juice, prevent the scurvy where persons are for long periods deprived of vegetable food and fresh meats, as on board ships, and during the long winters of a northern clime.


Wherever it is possible, it is certain that the juice of acid fruits, such as lemons, limes, and currants, should be substituted for vinegar. One who has never tried it cannot realize the superiority of lemon juice over vinegar, when used on salads, greens, meats and fish. We all know how superior it is, in preparing acid drinks, to vinegar. Of course, we cannot preserve vegetable and animal substances with such living or organized acids, as we can with vinegar; but if, after having preserved them in vinegar, we were to soak them in water, so as to remove the vinegar, and then apply lemon juice as we use them, it would be an improvement. The use of vinegar should undoubtedly be discouraged, by recommending the use of vegetable acids in its stead, rather than encouraged.

A curiosity to say the least, Ellis also goes on to criticise the tight dress of ladies (bear in mind that this was causing serious health risks to women during the period) and to complain almost endlessly about the consumption of alcohol.

My next post will focus on visions and prophecy, in particular Dr Paulus and his book The Magicion (1869). Thanks for reading. Until next time …


3 Responses to “Library Blog: Temperance & Vineger”

  1. susanditmire

    A wonderful article, the extreme of temperance, but not very diffirent then the Temperance movement in the US in 1860′ and 1870’s. You mention the time period, but forgot to tell us. A mistake I make when in a hurry, too.
    I am interested in the contoversy on the fermented and not fermented communion. There was one group in California that actually squeezed fresh grapes and included the whole thing, pulp and all in the communion cups. Has anyone heard of that before?
    I have a lot of information on Thomas Welch and Welch’s grape juice, if anyone is interested.

  2. Alex Murray

    I apologise for forgetting to include the date. The book was published in 1887 in New York, so I assume that Ellis was familiar with the various American temperance groups. In one of the texts (I can’t remember which as I’ve skimmed a few of them) he attempts to draw on the etymology of the original Hebrew in the Bible, stating that the word ‘Wine’ is either a mistranslation or that there was no distinction between fermented and unfermented liquid within the definition of the word. I am unsure how much truth he has to his claim though seeing as I’m not familiar with Classical Hebrew! I have not heard too much about the American temperance league, although I’m slightly familiar with a few of the English ones such as Isaac Pitman. Glad you enjoyed the article.


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