Friday, April 3rd,1840. A party of six chronic drinkers in Chase's Tavern on Liberty Street in Baltimore sends a delegation to hear a well known temperance lecturer in a nearby church.
The next day, after they'd sobered up, and realizing they were no longer able to drink in moderation, they made up their minds and each man signed a pledge, "To drink no more of the poisonous draft, forever."
Thereafter, the men convened nightly at their various homes and each man promised to bring a friend with him to the next meeting. By recounting their experiences as reformed drunkards, they hoped to induce the new members to join them in signing the pledge. Thus started the Washingtonian Movement or “Washington Total Abstinence Society”.
They were the first to discover that no one is quite so well equipped to help the chronic alcoholic as the ex-drunk, a fellow sufferer who has been through the mill.
The Washingtonians avoided all the time-honored pitfalls that beset the early Nineteenth Century reformer which regarded the drunkard as an object of contempt or ridicule. The new society considered him a sick rather than a sinful man.
At first only ex-drunks could address the meetings. Religious dogmatism and political bias were taboo.
One purpose and one purpose only was held in mind: to rescue men from the toils of drink.
The society’s success spread like wildfire, shortly surpassing the five hundred thousand mark.
Unfortunately, with its popular early success, the society soon fell prey to politicians and temperance reformers. Many members took opposing sides to the public forum on the questions of alcohol reform and other issues of the day.
Torn by dissent from within, and opposed by rival organizations from without, the society faded and disappeared within years of its founding.
Brown, Richard Ewell. WASHINGTONIANS