Travis County Local Option Campaign Committee Records
An Inventory of the Collection
The Travis County Local Option Campaign Committee was part of a statewide effort in Texas in the early 1900s to use the politics of the power given to the electorate of a particular district to ban alcohol before the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the passing of Volstead Act passed in 1919. In Texas the "drys" (as reformers were called) in 1908 and 1911 tried again (similar attempts were made in the mid to late 1800s for a prohibition law) but lost the referendum by a close margin. Although the statewide dry campaigns had failed, the number of dry counties was increasing. The Travis County Local Option Committee, led by Milton Morris as Chairman, lobbied the electorate citing that there would be a reduction in crime, poverty and immorality if prohibition was passed. In addition the "drys" tied the issue to World War I, urging its passage as a moral stance on the war. In both the local option elections on December 21, 1916 and November 15, 1917 the anti-prohibition forces prevailed. There was a question of voter fraud in the November 15, 1917 election and a lawsuit was filed in district court by the prohibition advocates asking for the results to be overturned. In the election held on January 21, 1918 the City of Austin was voted "dry" as were some of the independent voting districts in Travis County but Pflugerville, Dessau and St. Elmo remained "wet". Another local option election was held a month later in Travis County Justice Precincts No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4. Additional Travis County independent voting districts voted to outlaw the manufacture, transportation, and sale of all alcoholic beverages and the results from this election closed down the remaining saloons in Travis County. There was still a "wet" precinct in the extreme western portion of Travis County but there were no saloons located in the precinct. A year later the whole state would go "dry" when the Texas legislature, encouraged by the Anti-Saloon League, ratified the federal prohibition amendment. And in 1919 Texas voters approved a state prohibition amendment.
The small collection (.2 linear feet) contains newspaper clippings, flyers, posters and correspondence dated from 1913 to 1924 that document the Travis County Local Option Campaign Committee's campaign to encourage voters to support prohibition in Travis County. The majority of the correspondence are letters sent by the Travis County Local Option Campaign Committee to encourage the electorate to vote for prohibition, however also included is a letter written to Milton Morris in 1916 from a parent that had two children attending the University of Texas and was very supportive of Morris's "efforts to make good Austin a better Austin." The flyers document the arguments used by the "drys" to promote banning alcohol citing an improvement of the financial and moral well-being of the community. Patriotic slogans were also used - "A Vote for the Saloon is a Vote for the Kaiser." There is a single flyer included entitled "A Few Reasons Why Travis County Should Not Adopt Local Option." A good portion of the newspaper clippings reference the fight for prohibition directly but some articles documented other political issues of the time such as World War I, suffrage, Governor Ferguson indicted by a grand jury for embezzlement and the possible change of City of Austin government from city commissioners to city manager/city council style government.
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Travis County Local Option Campaign Committee Records (AR.1994.098). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: unknown
Donation Date: unknown
Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults in 2013.
Detailed Description of the Collection