Detectives investigate drinking in Delavan and Oconto Falls, 1917-1918

Selected Anti-Saloon League of Wisconsin Records, 1917-1918

The Wisconsin Anti-Saloon League was established in 1897 to unify anti-alcohol sentiment, enforce temperance laws, and advocate for prohibition. Presented here are nearly 300 pages from the organization's unpublished records, consisting mostly of detectives' reports and correspondence from 1917-1918 investigations of "blind pig" cases (surveillance of businesses that sold liquor illegally). The first group of records (box 1 folder 4; ca. 150 pages) depicts alcohol use in Delavan, Walworth Co.; the private investigator's reports describe a carnival-like atmosphere of wild dancing, excessive drinking, lewd behavior, and prostitution. The second group (box 1 folder 13; ca. 130 pages) contains detective H.W. Hubbard's reports of his undercover investigations in the northeastern Wisconsin mill town of Oconto Falls; his account includes detailed descriptions and diagrams of the  Flatley Saloon and a "John Doe" legal action against John J. Flatley. These detectives' reports are accompanied by correspondence with Anti-Saloon League attorney James J. MacDonald, whose prohibition speeches (box 3 folder 7) comprise the third group of records. Two ephemeral pamphlets published by the organization (from box 3 folder 9) are included at the end of the collection.

The materials shared online here are only a small portion of the entire collection of Anti-Saloon League records (just 4 of nearly 50 folders); for a detailed description of the rest, see the register to the papers. Selected issues of the Anti-Saloon League newsletter, The Wisconsin Issue, are included elsewhere at Turning Points in Wisconsin History.

Related Topics: The Progressive Era
Brewing and Prohibition
Creator: Anti-Saloon League of Wisconsin
Pub Data: Unpublished records (box 1 folders 4 & 13 and box 3 folders 7, 9-10) in Wisconsin Historical Society Mss 604
Citation: Anti-Saloon League of Wisconsin. Records (selections). Online facsimile at:; Visited on: 7/5/2022