By David Rowe
The drinking orgy is indulged in only by civilised peoples. Savages have other forms of self-inflicted torture. —Mr. Pussyfoot Johnson.
William Eugene “Pussyfoot” Johnson, a law enforcement officer who admitted to lying bribing etc. to gain convictions. It is claimed he travelled the world 3 times giving over 4000 lectures was an opponent as was the Bradford Methodist Minister Sam Rowley. Bert Temple in his 1926 Christmas address responded accordingly and asked members to remember the slogan LUBRICATION IN MODERATION and thus give old Pussyfoot Johnson, and all his freakish tribe, no opening for foistering his unnatural tastes on our British beer-loving, baccy-loving and beef loving palates. The result was a significant increase in the level of donations.
Pussyfoot claimed that he lied, bribed and drank for the cause. It was in 1906 that he embarked on the work that earned him his nickname. Appointed by President Teddy Roosevelt as a special officer in the Indian service, his role was to enforce the prohibition law in Oklahoma. On one occasion, it is said he dumped 25,000 bottles of liquor into the Arkansas River. Not surprisingly this made him many enemies among the various prohibition-busting gangs.
Following his appointment as Chief Special Officer with a brief to stop liquor traffic in all Indian territories, he made even more enemies, resulting in some of his deputies being killed. Despite this he pressed on with his crusade, but as a result of the threats to his life he began to conduct much of his work at night. This is described as being carried out in a ‘stealthy manner’ giving rise to his nickname ‘Pussyfoot.’ By 1911, he had resigned from government service, and started working with the Anti-Saloon League. In addition he became managing editor of a number of temperance publications, but not satisfied with saving our Atlantic cousins from the ‘evil drink’, he travelled extensively publicising the temperance cause. On a visit to England in 1919, he was caught up in a student demonstration and, during one of his lectures, was blinded in one eye after been hit by a missile. This still didn’t deter him and along with many other temperance campaigners, he continued with what he saw as his mission. In the meantime the terms ‘Pussyfoot’ and ‘Pussyfootism’ were commonly employed by anti-temperance campaigners. Another American who fully embraced the temperance movement was Lady Astor.
The following articles have been obtained from the subscription service and demonstrate the opposition to temperance and in particular the presence of ‘Pussyfoot.’
• 27th September 1920 Liverpool Daily Post
WALES TEMPERANCE FEDERATION. MR. PUSSYFOOT TO ADDRESS MEETINGS. The series meetings preliminary to the annual conference of the Federation, which is to held on Thursday Denbigh, begins to-day with public meeting at Bodfari. Tomorrow committee meetings will take place as well as public meetings at Denbigh, St. Asaph. Caerwys, Rhewl, Nantglyn and Tan-y-fron in reference to public morals. A meeting for children, with preliminary procession will be the principal event on Wednesday, in the evening of which day temperance propaganda meetings will held Denbigh, Mold, Ruthin, Llanelidan, and other places…..(cont’d)
• 30th September 1920 Liverpool Echo
PUSSYFOOT” AT MOLD. OVERWHELMING WELSH PROTEST AGAINST FOREIGN’ INTERFERENCE.’ Mr. “Pussyfoot” Johnson attended a large meeting of the North Wales Temperance Federation at Mold last night, but neither he nor any of the other of the advertised speakers was, given a hearing owing to the strong opposition. By an overwhelming majority a resolution was carried protesting against foreign interference in affairs which concern Wales alone.”
• 2nd October 1920 Dundee Courier
“PUSSYFOOT” REFUSED HALL AT DENBIGH. Mr “Pussyfoot” Johnson, who was announced to speak at Denbigh last night, was unable to fulfil his engagement owing to the refusal of the proprietors of the hall in which he was to speak to permit the meeting. They, doubtless had in mind the recent hostile reception of Mr Johnson at Mold. A largely-attended counter-meeting was held outside the hall, and Mr Johnson’s visit was strongly denounced.
• 2nd October 1920 Edinburgh Evening News
“PUSSYFOOT” ON THE RUN. ESCAPE THROUGH CHAPEL BASEMENT. Mr “Pussyfoot” Johnson, who avoided a hostile crowd at Mold on Wednesday by making a rear door retreat, had to escape through a chapel basement, after meeting at Denbigh the following evening. Anti-prohibitionists who had been present Mold are said to have arrived Denbigh on Thursday night in a string of charabancs. The organisers of the temperance meeting took precautions, and when the hostile crowd about 200 number reached the where the meeting was held, the gates were locked and a row of stewards were on guard behind the iron railings which surround the building. The visitors made efforts to get into the courtyard, and a few succeeded. Although a great deal of disturbance was caused there was no violence. Bv this time a crowd of at least 1500 people were outside the chapel. The anti-prohibitionists held a meeting and passed, resolutions against prohibition, the interference of an American, and their exclusion from “an advertised meeting.” Meanwhile, inside the hall. Mr Johnson delivered his speech, and then ‘ avoided the hostile element by escaping through the basement.
• 4th October 1920 Liverpool Daily Post
MR. ‘PUSSYFOOT ‘ JOHNSON AT MOLD AND DENBIGH
TO THE EDITOR OF THE POST AND MERCURY Sir. —Through your far-reaching paper I beg solemnly protest against the opposition tactics at the above meetings. Judging from the organisation and character the opposition and its unseemly language and conduct, the object was not intelligent and good natured interruption, but a despicable attempt stop the meeting, which all moderate men and lovers of free speech cannot but deplore. behoves all right-minded men to think seriously where this folly likely to lead us, and for the following reasons:—
(1) The direct policy action which, at the last, leads to the negation of representative government. Let the licensed victuallers of the British Isles ask themselves how can they condemn the said policy in British workmen when they themselves resort to to silence those who are opposed their views? If might is to the criterion right in this land the sooner we apologise to the Germans for entering the late war the better it is for our prestige. We have conquered the Germans on this very point, and it behoves not to imitate their disastrous example. (2) Free speech is the inalienable right of every person, but if the licensed victuallers claim the right to organise mob force to silence all who conscientiously oppose their trade, then they are back in feudal Russia, and freedom of opinion and voice is a mockery. I appeal the leaders of opinions amongst our licensed victuallers to rise to the occasion this matter condemning this piece indiscretion and folly. Is not the reason given for the opposition to Mr. W. E. Johnson an exceedingly flimsy one? Is it not an appeal against racial prejudice? They oppose his coming amongst us on the ground that it is an American unwarrantably interfering in the domestic affairs our country. But why they should oppose him on this ground passes my comprehension for the following reasons: 1. Mr. Johnson did not thrust himself upon us, but came at the invitation of British temperance workers, who are anxious to enlighten their beloved land on the true meaning and success the American Prohibition movement. We shall not go to Canossa for inviting him here, for to invite experts from other lands to teach social and scientific subjects has long been the usage in this country. In pre-war times we have listened to many French, German, American, and other experts on such questions. Even now in Scotland the licensed victuallers have men speaking against Prohibition whom they have invited over for the purpose—no doubt some of their own class who have lost their jobs home. Hence the flimsiness of this excuse. 2. Even if the charge against Mr. Johnson was true, it behoves these grumblers to be silent, for how many times have we been guilty of interfering in American affairs? Let our licensed friends refresh their memories of the American Civil War. Have they forgotten the Alabama affair, the depredation that ship made on American commerce, and huge pile we had to pay in compensation for unwarrantably interfering in the affairs of America? Did we not build ships in Birkenhead help the South fight against freeing the slaves, and did we not earn the hatred of all decent minded Americans that time? Then again, there our interference connection with the late war. Did we not send Lords Reading and Northcliffe and others to solicit American support, and at last succeeded in getting them fight with us in France. Before hurling their petty sneers at Mr. Johnson would be well for trade followers to remember this fact. 3. This ungrateful hounding of an American citizen in this country tends to alienate American sympathy and support just when are badly in need of it. The world is not safe yet, all sorts of dangers loom on the international horizon, and no one knows how soon we shall have to plead again for American help. To sneer at American ideals and insult citizens whom they honour is surely mean and contemptible. 4 Temperance workers regard Prohibition as international and world issue. We think imperially in this matter, and are alive the fact that Prohibition has given America tremendous advantage over us in the economic sphere. Owing to Prohibition, her resources to capture the world markets are increasing in leaps and bounds. It behoves us learn at Mr. Johnson’s feet before it is too late. —Yours. &c.. JOHN KELLY. Denbigh. October 2nd, 1920.
• 8th October 1920 Flintshire County Herald
MR. PUSSYFOOT JOHNSON AT HOLD. EXTRAORDINARY SCENES. MEETING BROKEN UP. As briefly reported in last week’s “County Herald,” amazing scenes were witnessed at the Town Hall, Mold, (DR: From the description I believe the article is referring to the Assembly Hall, rather than the relatively new Town Hall in Earl Road) on Wednesday evening. Mr. W. E. Johnson (“Pussyfoot”) had been invited by the North Wales Temperance Federation to be of the speakers at a public meeting. Naturally, this announcement aroused great interest, and judging from what happened later it also aroused another kind of “interest.” It was soon evident that opposition was forthcoming. Two days before the meeting an Anti- Prohibition meeting was held, at which there was a crowded attendance; and the night before another crowded meeting was held. Leaflets were also circulated on behalf of the anti-Prohibition League, and it soon became apparent that when the “Pussyfoot” meeting was held there would be opposition. On Wednesday evening several well-filled charabancs arrived in town, and matters began to take an interesting turn. Every available seat in the Town Hall was occupied, and on the platform there was a large attendance. Mr. C. L. Williams presided, and sitting on his left was Mr. Johnson. There were loud cheers as a member of the audience, sitting at the front, rose and faced the meeting and commenced an address. In this he denounced the interference of Americans in matters that concerned Wales herself. If they were to have their liberties and freedom taken from them, let it be by their own people (loud cheers). A resolution was then proposed and seconded that none save British subjects should be allowed to address the meeting. There was a fresh outburst, and several voices were heard calling on the Chairman to put the resolution to the meeting The Chairman: Is it your wish that we commence this meeting? The audience shouted back “No,” and a further uproar took place, during which there were shouts of “Down with Pussyfoot.” The Chairman pointed out that what proposer and seconder meant was that no one save British or Welsh subjects should speak. A Voice: We don’t want you (laughter and disorder)…….(contd.)
• 12th October 1920 Liverpool Daily Post.
MR. PUSSYFOOT JOHNSON AT MOLD AND DENBIGH. Sir —Owing to having been absent from London in fulfilment of speaking engagements, it is only today, I have had the opportunity of reading the “Post and Mercury” of the 4th inst., wherein I find Mr J. Kelly’s misleading letter reference with reference to Mr. “Pussyfoot Johnson’s experience at Mold and Denbigh in connection with the conference of the Wales Temperance Society, and from information received from those present at the Mold meeting, I consider that Mr. Kelly’s mis-statements should be made known your readers. At Mold, Mr. Johnson was treated the same our own prohibitionists, no one being allowed & hearing, as there was a feeling of keen resentment against the wartime restrictions in force not only North Wales, but throughout the country. With reference to the Denbigh afternoon meeting all the speeches were in Welsh, with the exception of that made by Johnson, which was listened to very patiently, and there were interjections. At the evening meeting every precaution was taken to admit only sympathisers, the main door being closed. Admittance was made through a side-door, and all those who entered were closely scrutinised. This was probably due to the fact that during the afternoon several large motor-vehicles came into the town loaded with men from the districts around, who made no secret of the fact that they intended to prevent the evening’ meeting. The floor of the chapel was well filled, but the gallery was nearly empty. Mr. Johnson spoke for some thirty-five minutes, and I then asked permission to question him on certain statements he had made. The chairman said I might do when the other speakers had finished. Eventually, however, the noise outside became insistent that the meeting inside was curtailed, and Mr. Johnson managed to escape by a back entrance. 1 then asked the chairman to allow me to explain to the audience the questions I proposed ask Mr. Johnson, and after pressing my claim I began to say few words, but the audience commenced to sing, and the meeting was ended. After considerable struggle 1 succeeded in getting out the hall, and found hundreds of infuriated men trying to gain admittance, and it was by my intervention that serious rioting was averted. I think this statement proves conclusively, that what Mr. Kelly has written is grossly unjust to myself and my organisation. I think for one moment that the feeling against Mr. Johnson runs high because is an American, but because is attacking our well tried system of individual freedom.—Yours, &c.. V. C. REDWOOD. Organising speaker Fellowship of Freedom and Reform. Whitehall House, 29, Charing Cross, S.W.1.
(So who were the Fellowship of Freedom and Reform? The organisation were set up to oppose the temperance movement and Its aims were defined thus, ‘THE Fellowship is a public organisation. Non-Party and Non-Sectarian, which stands for Personal Freedom, True Temperance, and Reform, as opposed to Prohibition, Local Option, and Excessive Restrictions.’ Membership cost 1s (5p) per Annum (Minimum), for which members received the pictured badge and a magazine, sent post free, every month.
So what were the declared guiding principles of the Fellowship? A leaflet lists the following:
(a) Individual Freedom (within the bounds of morality). The right to exercise our free choice of right and wrong, without which we have no temptation, cannot therefore sin, and consequentially are unable to work out our own salvation.
(b) True Temperance. That is moderation in all things. We therefore believe that moderate use of alcoholic beverages is in perfect harmony with the practice of temperance.
(c) Reforms (domestic, social and industrial), including Reform of the Public House. Reform is needed -not Prohibition. Reform- wise, moderate and patient- in light of experience and education.
(d) Abolition of Drunkenness. Drunkenness is immoral; therefore, like all promoters of True Temperance, the Fellowship condemns it and upholds the law which conforms with morality and punishes the man who goes to excess.
(Further details on the Fellowship will be found in my article Freedom and Reform or Freedom from Reform?
Personal Liberty or ‘Pussyfootism’? Published by the Pub History Society in 2018)
• 15th October 1920 Flintshire County Herald
AT PUSSYFOOT’S MEETING AT MOLD. (By a Contributor). – And you were at Pussyfoots meeting at Mold were you! I have heard such a lot about it that I would like to know how you got on there. Well I started by the 7.20 p.m. motorbus from Gwernymynydd, in company with a lady friend from Lixwm, who was as eager as myself to see and hear the American visitor. It was just half-past seven when we arrived at the front of the well-lit Town Hall, where there was a surging, jostling crowd of some hundreds trying desperately to elbow their through the police-guarded door. “There’s no room for more,” cried a couple of officials in blue. We were quite downcast at this, but, to our relief, another officer bobbed up from round the corner and announced quietly that we could get in through the back door. So off my lady friend and myself hurried, along with a few others persons, and up the stone staircase to the back of the Hall. But we could see nothing of the platform, as a dense and noisy crowd stood on the back benches. My lady friend looked scared, and said with trembling voice that she would not stay. “This is not a temperance meeting, surely! It is more like that ‘hot place’ with the lid off. Look at that man shaking a bottle of beer up in the air. No, indeed, I shall not stay here. I was never in such a meting. But before I go I should like to see ‘Pussyfoot.’ ” So we edged our way to the further side of the room, and managed to get the lady to stand on the end of a bench, till we got a fair glimpse of the occupants of the platform, which, I am glad to say, was crowded with sturdy, intelligent advocates of the good cause. The gentleman in the middle was the Chairman, Mr. C. L. Williams, or “Ty’n Llwyn,” as they familiarly know him; to his right was Mr. Pussyfoot, the stout gentleman. with grey hair and high forehead. My lady friend then left, and I felt more at liberty to move about as best I could through the turbulent crowd, and to take stock of things. I also mounted one foot on a bench and the other on some heating pipes (not hot at this time, fortunately). Mr. “Pussyfoot” Johnson is on his feet, essaying to speak, but his voice is completely drowned in a wild chorus of yells and booing. He looks calm and collected, as if accustomed to ‘fight with beasts at Ephesus.’ “We want no foreigners here!” “Who spilt Milk?” “Miaw! miaw” Up goes the full beer-bottle again. “More beer, more barley.” “What an absurd thing,” said a woman in the crowd, “Isn’t there a use for barley than making beer?” Just then the Rev. G. Parry Williams attempts to address the audience, but is silenced by the gesticulating roisterers at the back, and sits down. The Chairman again stands erect and undaunted, and manages to throw forth a few sentences between the waves of noise, till he also resumes his seat, hopeless of being able to proceed. Then the crowded platform all sit tight and mute, hoping the hired disturbers would in a while get tired at their job. When, lo! a well-dressed gentleman, with bow-tie and hair parted in the middle, at the opposite side of the Hall, takes the field. He motions furiously with both hands for the crowd to be quiet: he was evidently known to them, for “Hush!” “Hush!” runs through their ranks, and behold, there was a great calm. I challenge any lady or gentleman on that platform to debate with me, not now, but lateroen the question of Prohibition.” “Hear,” “Hear,” was the rejoinder of his followers. Their was a momentary stir on the platform, but 1 don’t understand that the challenge was taken up. “Why don’t they let Pussyfoot speak?” 1 asked of a neighbour. “Yah! We don’t want Americans and foreigners to interfere with us,” was the curt reply. “Why! You don’t call Americans ‘foreigners,’ do you? Haven’t you read of the Pilgrim Fathers recently? Americans are a part of ourselves, only a bit of cold water separate us. And, besides, we were jolly glad a short time ago to get Americans to help us in the war. You didn’t object to them them” “When did they come in? just at the fag-end. And what did they do?” “What did they do! Fifty thousand of them died on the battle-field! From this you can reckon the number of wounded. Besides, remember, friend, that there are fifteen million Germans in America, five millions of them German born; and as many millions of Irishmen over there, who would be only too glad to see us, our Country and Empire, ground to the dust, and you may depend upon it that it took President Wilson some time and diplomacy to get a country with hostile elements in it to join us in the great struggle. Yes, and he got full conscription there without a single riot.” “That’s right,” said a woman near me. “Let me get on the platform for five minutes, and I’d tell these rowdy chaps what my husband spends on drink, and how he dems me and the children. Why don’t you let ‘Pussyfoot’ speak? Let’s hear what he has to say. “Right you are,” cried another woman, “there’s two sides to every question.” So, between us all, our debater was effectively squelched, and his tail went down. I found myself later on rubbing shoulders with a well-known and prominent citizen of Mold. “It’s a pity,” I said, “that they won’t let him speak. These noisy fellows are not Mold fellows at all.” To my astonishment, he shakes his head significantly, saying “We don’t want Americans to meddle with our affairs.” “But we were very glad of them to meddle with us in the ‘Great War,” I remarked, And if we and the Americans were more united we could hold the world in peace.” “England, France and Belgium can do this all right,” was his reply, with a puff at his cigar. Hello! Here’s the National Anthem! The occupants of the platform are all on their feet, as well as the body of the audience. “Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau”, is sung twice over, the last time with a shrill lady’s voice leading, and the meeting breaks up. After those on the platform make their exit, a gentleman in the Hall mounts a bench to hold an opposition meeting. After a few opening sentences, the hall-keeper appears, as if by magic, on the deserted platform, calling out in commanding tones, with right arm outstretched and clenched fist, “Stop it! Stop it! You have no right to speak here. You have not paid for the Hall.” Stepping down, he walks up to and faces the speaker on the bench, saying in stentorian accents, “Out you go. You have not paid for the Hall.” The intending orator collapsed like a pricked bladder at the sound of the word, “payment.” It was more potent that all the appeals of the lithe chairman for silence. It was all so very comical, and we couldn’t help but smile. We trudged from the heated atmosphere to the High Street. Here were a number of dirty, capless, and ragged little Arabs, with old tins, kettles, frying pans and sticks, a veritable African band, on the lookout, as they said, for Mr Pussyfoot. I disliked very much this aspect of the night’s proceedings, the children infected with the views of anti-temperance sentiments. They must have been inoculated by their elders at their homes. I can only commend them to the immediate and serious attention of our churches, chapels and schools. Another thing that struck me at the meeting, all the women I came across were more or less pro-temperance. At least, I didn’t see them jubilate against the speakers, whilst many of them spoke up bravely for them, and especially for ‘Mr Pussyfoot’, as I have already mentioned. But I did hear afterwards, from a good authority, that one woman from ‘Bedlam’ (DR: Milford Street, Mold) stated emphatically at the meeting. He (Mr Pussyfoot) has lost one eye, and by jabers (DR: Irish expression meaning an oath), he will lose another before he goes home tonight. This threat failed for a motor car steered to the front of the Hall, apparently with the object of taking the great Temperance reformer to his hosts’ home for the night. An eager crowd clustered at once around the car, many of them with no good intentions, but the visitor and his friends quietly slipped to another car at the back of the Hall, completely eluding his angry enemies. So the woman from “Bedlam” and her like, had not a “look in,” as they say. The Armonic (DR: Printers) side of the High Street was lined with charabancs, ready to take the disturbers back to their respective districts, Wrexham chiefly, I was told. One of these huge vehicles was already with passengers when I walked up to it, and they were in a merry mood. A dark-visaged passenger stood up at the front, to conduct them. I stepped on the footboard and enquired, “Are you going to Wrexham?” “Yes” was the immediate reply, “Step in, mate,” thinking I was one of the crew. “And you all come from Wrexham?” “Yes.” “Why wouldn’t you let Pussyfoot speak?” “Yah! We don’t want foreigners.” “And you came all the way from Wrexham to disturb our meeting in Mold. We in Mold don’t want foreigners like you either. Fair play to Mold.” I met several of the occupants of the platform in the street, men and women always foremost in every good work; they looked somewhat dejected, and each cried “shame.” “Be of good cheer,” I answered. “This is the best advertisement possible for the Temperance cause.” Too tame and tepid have the Temperance waters been for too long a time; now the waters are stirred, and from stirred waters cometh salvation. This man, Johnson, does things; he is no mere talkee-talkee; therefore the drink interests fear him, and will suppress him if they can.
• 6th April 1921 The Scotsman
MR ” PUSSYFOOT” JOHNSON Columbus, Ohio, • April 5. Mr “Pussyfoot” Johnson has now fully recovered from an “attack of bronchitis!’’ It is announced that he will sail for Liverpool on April 16, accompanied, by Dr H. S. Russell, – founder of the American Anti-Saloon League, and will make a tour of Europe. Mr Johnson will afterwards proceed to India. —Reuter.
• 21st January The Scotsman
MR ” PUSSYFOOT ” JOHNSON WHAT HE EXPECTS IN BRITAIN. New York (By Mail)—Mr “Pussyfoot” Johnson expressed himself in very confident mood on his return here at the beginning of the month from a tour in South and East Africa in the cause of Prohibition. Referring to Great Britain, he said the country would have local option in a few years. It was one of the pre-Election pledges made by the Labour party, and Mr Ramsay MacDonald is practically a Prohibitionist.- Reuter.
Although not researched in detail ‘Pussyfoot’ also visited numerous other countries.
The Aberdeen Press and Journal of 3rd February 1945 carried the following article regarding his death.
“Death of ‘Pussyfoot’ Johnson Mr William (” Pussyfoot”) E. Johnson, internationally known prohibitionist, died yesterday, states a New York cable. Johnson gained world repute as a prohibitionist in 1913 when he represented the U.S. at the international anti-alcohol congress in Milan. The great moment in his life came when the Volstead Act, introducing Prohibition was passed by Congress in 1919. It was repealed in1933, and though he still campaigned he admitted that much of what he fought for had been lost.”
Copyright of articles published lies with the Mold Civic Society and individual contributors. Contents and opinions expressed therein remains the responsibility of individual authors.