Protestations against the dangers of alcohol are not new to Western New York. The pre-organizational meeting of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was held in the summer of 1874 at Chautauqua. Seeking pledges of total abstinence from alcohol, the women’s watch words were “Agitate - Educate - Legislate.” By 1906, the Anti-Saloon League (founded in 1893) was making headway with a new wave of attacks on the sale of liquor. Western New York towns could then - as now - vote to be “dry,” meaning not allow the sale of liquor within the town limits.
In November 1907, Hubbard was quoted in the local newspaper, The Advertiser, as saying, “the highest prosperity is found only in “dry” towns. Where people buy booze they do not buy books.” A little more than a year later, in the same publication, it was reported, “Dr. James Winfred Cool of N.Y.C. is to speak in the Roycroft Chapel, Sunday at 3:00 p.m. His subject is “The Battle of the Bottle.” Dr. Cool is State Treasurer of the Anti-saloon League.”
Then on October 26, 1911, Elbert Hubbard expressed his support of no-(liquor) license as a “vote for business” with the following letter published in The Advertiser:
“I am sure that no-license in East Aurora has been a big benefit to the Roycroft Shop. The boys have had more sleep, less liquor, more exercise and as a consequence have been better fitted to do good work. Many Roycroft boys have bank accounts now who never had before. And some of those who did have accounts have bigger balances. I do not say that each Roycrofter has benefitted personally (for some didn’t patronize the saloon) except as all are benefitted as a whole. East Aurora is better off without license and always will be.
After prohibition was repealed in 1933, the 21st amendment granted each state the right to regulate the trafficking of alcoholic beverages within its borders. An April 10, 2012 report from the State of New York Liquor Authority listed the dry towns (9) and partially dry towns (39) in the state as of 2012. Two have been dry since 1948 (Lapeer in Cortland County, and Freemont in Steuben County), and one voted as recently as 2010 to go dry (Neversink in Sullivan County). The “partially dry” list is complicated by a variety of sales situations, for example, in the nearby town of Freedom in Cattaraugus County, the rules are “wet for off-premises consumption; wet for special on-premises consumption (tavern); wet for on-premises consumption of beer at race tracks and outdoor athletic fields and stadiums where admission fees are charged; dry for on-premises consumption.”
By the way, East Aurora is NOT dry. Sorry, Elbert.
Sources: The Advertiser at the Aurora Town Historian's office; State of New York Liquor Authority website; WCTU website