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The Research Council on Problems of Alcohol turns toward science, 1938

Over the course of 1938, the newly-named RCPA was effectively taken over by scientists and, along the way, subtly shifted its self-definition and goals away from those of the original SCNCA. The transition had a number of sources. The Rockefeller rejection had turned the group's funds-seeking attentions away from a single, comprehensive source and toward a series of philanthropic foundations and wealthy individuals--and had also redefined the group's own would-be role in alcohol-related research and education. Instead of offering itself as the administrator and executer of its own alcohol program, the group now moved toward functioning as a brokerage house for research. Scientists would bring worthy projects to the RCPA, the RCPA would evaluate these and place the most worthwhile on a list of approved projects. In turn, the RCPA would offer the list to potential financial supporters, who might choose among the research offerings those they most wished to support. The change eased the group's transition from an orientation in which science was viewed as the means to a greater pedagogic end to an orientation in which the support of scientific research, per se, became the chief end.

A host of other factors also figured in the scientific takeover. AAAS affiliation occasioned a membership drive aimed specifically at working scientists and university presidents. The group's ongoing failure to attract funding had by mid-year 1938 strained Moore's personal resources and may have forced him to reduce his participation somewhat. A would-be "temporary" move of the RCPA's headquarters from Washington to New York radically changed the composition and character of the group's active membership. Karl M. Bowman's recruitment into the group in the summer of 1938 and his quick rise to a leadership role also contributed. Finally, the fiasco in Virginia (see Chapter VI) seems to have spurred RCPA/AAAS scientists to resolve that they would not suffer a fate like Waddell's and Haag's, thus also strengthening the group's solidarity as scientists. According to the available documentation, the transition actually began innocently enough with an effort to address the group's "financial problem" by engaging the help of a public relations firm.


The early months of 1938 saw the RCPA's list of approved scientific projects steadily growing and Moore still vigorously pursuing funding leads. Support, however, was not forthcoming. None of the group's several approaches to other foundations or to wealthy individuals had proved successful. Thus, by May 1938 the Executive Committee tried a new tack (Minutes, 20 and 26 May 38, LMA). The public relations firm of Pierce and Hedrick (P&H) was proposed as a means for securing new funding.

Bayard M. Hedrick of the firm attended the RCPA's May meetings to explain the proposed plan of action, the cost of the effort, and answer questions. The terms of the proposed agreement involved a $500 advance to P&H

for preliminary work, with the understanding that, if this work is successful, a 10-week program would be inaugurated in the early autumn, for which the Committee would provide $5,000. Pierce & Hedrick would undertake to raise $25,000 or more (Minutes, 20 May 38, LMA).
Moore told the group that the $500 advance would be provided by the same anonymous friend who had funded the bulk of the Council's expenses to date. The discussion was continued at the 26 May 1938 meeting so that members not present on 20 May might also participate. On that occasion Moore clarified that the $25,000 amount mentioned earlier was a minimum goal and that P&H would seek approximately $150,000 in all. The proposal, however, was not greeted with universal approval. The minutes show that some members were concerned that P&H's fundraising efforts would be incompatible with the dignified image of scientific endeavor. A subcommittee comprising McKinley, Moulton, and Moore "was asked to interview Mr. Hedrick regarding techniques and procedures to be used in the proposed program of fund raising" and was authorized to act on the proposal based on its evaluation.

The three met with Hedrick on 28 May 1938 at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. Moore's minutes of that meeting describe the reservations conveyed to Hedrick:

Dr. McKinley and Dr. Moulton explained to Mr. Hedrick the attitude of the Council toward the usual type of money raising campaign. Mr. Hedrick assured the committee that dignified procedures would be used, with special attention to personal solicitation by representatives of Pierce and Hedrick; that no public meetings would be held - in short that it would be a program of personal interviews (Minutes, 28 May 38, LMA).
This much agreed, discussion turned to the specifics of the RCPA's contract with Pierce and Hedrick. Moore's minutes detailed the arrangements:
Mr. Hedrick expressed his willingness to enter into a special arrangement with the Council, because of the scientific character of the organization and its present lack of funds. It was agreed that the Council would pay Pierce & Hedrick a fee of $500 in advance as a retainer. Pierce & Hedrick would at once undertake to raise an Enabling Fund of approximately $25,000 between June 1 and September 5, with the understanding that for this service a fee of $1,050 would be charged only in case the enabling Fund is raised. Beginning September 5, Pierce & Hedrick would begin an active program to secure $150,000 from selected individuals of means and intelligent outlook. This work would last until November 12. For this service a fee of $3,500 would be charged. It was understood that the Council would make available, for miscellaneous expenses, a maximum of $200 for the first period and a maximum of $1,500 for the second period (Minutes, 28 May 38, LMA).
Whether the impetus had come from Moulton, McKinley, Moore or Hedrick cannot be established, but the meeting further entrenched the RCPA's increasing commitment to a more purely scientific identity. Moore's notes emphasized the need greatly to expand the scientific membership and tighten the group's association with the AAAS. On 4 June 1938 Moore wrote Wilbur (in what was probably a general circular sent many or all RCPA members) conveying news and asking for responses to these recent trends in the group's affairs. "Pierce & Hedrick are interested in the Council's program and are confident that they will succeed in their efforts, because the Council represents the only scientific approach to the alcohol problem," Moore wrote. "They wish in their work," he continued, "to emphasize our relationship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and desire that we add as members of the Council a number of scientifically trained persons" (Moore to Wilbur, 4 Jun 38, LMA).

A list of 52 names, comprised chiefly of scientists on university faculties and university presidents (*1), was assembled. The list clearly reflected an intention to extend the Council's national geographical coverage and with it the group's national standing. The three-man subcommittee, Moore continued, was revising the Council's four-page memorandum "for use by Pierce & Hedrick as an attractive brochure." Moore also included the text of a new paragraph to be included in the Council's description, which would further anchor it in the neutrality and prestige of the AAAS as well as impose the AAAS's good offices as a buffer between funds received and their subsequent use for research. Its text read:

The Research Council on Problems of Alcohol is an associated society of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The scientific program of the Council, as outlined in this brochure, has been endorsed by the Executive Committee and Council of the Association and will be carried out under the general direction of the Association. All funds of the Research Council on Problems of Alcohol will be administered and disbursed by the Association (Minutes, 16 Jun 38, LMA).
Moore had earlier written Wilbur (Moore to Wilbur, 9 Jun 38, LMA) asking if he would help recruit some of the new candidates. Wilbur complied, sending the same letter of encouragement to fourteen persons on the proposed list (Wilbur to candidates, 20 Jun 38, LMA); Wilbur's brief, two-paragraph text was a small masterpiece of friendly persuasion--it read:
Some of us have thought it desirable to set up a Research Council on Problems of Alcohol with the idea of studying the various phases of the alcohol problem from a strictly factual and scientific standpoint without prejudgment or prejudice....You may already have heard from Dr. Harry H. Moore...who is acting as Executive Secretary. Since sooner or later there will be widespread discussion of alcohol, it seems reasonable to get together a considerable body of reliable information so that the public will have sufficient material upon which to form sound judgment. If you should feel like joining in with us, I think there would be no great requirement upon your time.
A revised RCPA memorandum, which would now provide the basis for a brochure developed by Pierce & Hedrick, was submitted to the Executive Committee of the AAAS by McKinley for approval at its session of 28 June 1938 (Minutes, 28 Jun 38, LMA). Shifts in the wording of the revised memorandum's introductory paragraphs subtly indicated the group's drift toward a more scientific self-conception.
January 1938: Recent developments in the advertising, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages have led a small group of scientists, educators and other public spirited citizens to the belief that an organization should be created to ascertain the facts about the effects of alcohol and to make those facts known.

June 1938: Extended observation of present day advertising, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages has led a group of scientists to the belief that a scientific study should be made to ascertain the facts about the effects of alcohol, and to disseminate those facts.

At a glance these two statements may seem quite similar, but closer examination reveals notable differences. The "small group of scientists, educators and other public spirited citizens" of the January statement has been replaced by, simply, "a group of scientists" in the June statement--gone are both the educators and public spirited citizens as well as the mention or requirement that the group is "small." The shift in the statement's first two words--from "recent developments" in January to "extended observation" in June--involves a shift from a concern with the course of current history ("recent developments") to a more neutral exercise of scientific objectivity ("extended observation"). Similarly, the January statement's "belief that an organization should be created" is replaced by the June statement' "belief that a scientific study should be made"--taking the emphasis away from the formation of a new group in the already crowded arena of Dry and Wet interests and replacing it instead with an emphasis on the execution of a scientific study. Finally, the January statement's commitment to education, reflected in its intent "to make those facts known," was subtly softened in the June statement's intent "to disseminate those facts."

The retaining of Pierce and Hedrick, the new membership drive, and the fine-tuning of the group's appeals along more scientific lines evidence not only the group's tendency toward a more scientific self-conception but also the lengths to which Moulton, McKinley, and Moore were willing to go to generate resources for this scientific endeavor--both, perhaps, in order to bring new research to this topic and to provide new funding and employment opportunities for scientists.

Whatever the motivations, the membership drive proved to be a considerable success. By October 1938, when the RCPA's press conference introduced it to a wider public, the alcohol group could count 89 distinguished members, many of them drawn from the highest echelons of the American scientific establishment. Certainly, many new members were window-dressing, intended to present a puffed-out exterior sparkling with the names of prestigious researchers and academics. Regardless, expansion of the scientific membership inevitably tilted the group's power structure and its orientations in a more strongly scientific direction. The RCPA's prestigious roll-call also supplied one of its chief virtues in subsequent promotional efforts.


The move of the RCPA's headquarters from Washington to New York in the summer of 1938 also had an immediate and dramatic impact on the group's composititon and orientations. Unfortunately, my documentation does not give direct information on the motives and circumstances connected with the move. Minutes of a mid-June meeting in Washington simply report Moore asked and was granted permission for a "temporary," summer move (Minutes, 16 Jun 38, LMA) to New York City, where (in fact) the group would remain headquartered for the rest of its organizational life.

The move dramatically affected the group's active membership. The minutes of a pre-move, 16 June 1938 meeting still reflected the original SCNCA membership--in attendance were Givens, Beatty, Breg, Kelly, and Moore as well as McKinley and Moulton. Minutes of the group's first annual meeting--now post-move--held in New York (*2) on 16 September 1938, show an active membership built around a core of influential AAAS scientists. Only Moore and Moulton had been present at both the June and September meetings (*3).

The summer also found Moore asking Wilbur for a letter of recommendation for a post at the Connecticut State Department of Health in its extended venereal disease control program. "I shall work hard on this alcohol job and hope that we may get the Council on to its feet with sufficient financial support to assure an effective program," Moore wrote Wilbur. "Thus far, however, the Council has been a source of considerable expense to me, and I cannot continue under present arrangements much longer" (Moore to Wilbur, 25 Jun 38, LMA). A month later Moore could report only a single small contribution of unspecified amount from an unnamed businessman in New York (Moore to Wilbur, 26 Jul 38, LMA).

Moore's straitened circumstances, his job-hunting and Karl M. Bowman's enlistment in the group in the summer of 1938 shifted the group's leadership toward Bowman. By the end of August, Bowman was Vice-Chairman of the group's temporary Executive Committee and a member (along with H.E. Himwich, who, like Bowman, had ties with the Bellevue/NYU group) of a tentative Committee on Research Projects. By 16 September 1938, Bowman was Chair of the (now nontemporary) Executive Committee--which had been appointed by Moore (Minutes, 16 Sep 38, p. 2). Also by this date, a new, 32-member Scientific Committee had been established, now heavily infused with AAAS scientists and including Jolliffe as well as Himwich.

The scientific takeover was evidenced in other ways, too. New by-laws developed over the summer placed scientific enterprise explicitly above educational activities in importance, reversing the old SCNCA's priorities. Even the constantly changing letterhead mutely recorded the group's changes in structure and character. As noted in Chapter IV, the earliest SCNCA letterhead (August 1937) had simply listed two topical sub-groups, one representing "Education" and the other "Health and Safety," and by November 1937 a list of the group's eight fields of study had been added (General Health, Mental Health, Traffic Accidents, Crime and Delinquency, Destitution, Insurance, Agencies and materials, Economic and Sociological Aspects). By October 1938--via three or four intermediate letterhead changes--a new letterhead listed the new members of a permanent Executive Committee, showed Harry Moore as Director, and listed the 29 members of a single Scientific Committee--gone were all mention of Givens, of the eight fields of inquiry, and of Health, Safety, and Education.


Why had the AAAS taken so great an interest in the fledgling alcohol research group? What had drawn the powerful AAAS and some of its most prestigious members into the then unpopular and (as events in Virginia had shown) even somewhat treacherous alcohol domain in 1938? Why did the AAAS permanent secretary, F.R. Moulton, take an active interest in the alcohol group (*4)? And what could have attracted such American scientific luminaries as physiologist Walter B. Cannon, biochemist Hans T. Clarke, biologist Edwin G. Conklin, Bell Labs President Frank B. Jewett, astronomer Harlow Shapley, and physicists Robert A. Millikan, George B. Pegram, and Arthur H. Compton to alcohol research?

Forest Ray Moulton (1872-1952).  (Neither this picture nor caption appeared in my dissertation's original text.)

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find direct documentary evidence relating either to the AAAS's institutional motivations or individual motivations of AAAS/RCPA scientists. For example, AAAS Executive Committee meeting minutes for 26 December 1937--the meeting at which the RCPA was first accepted as an associated society--merely convey that "[t]he Research Council on Problems of Alcohol was accepted as an associated organization" (Minutes, 26 Dec 37, Item 51, p. 2, AAAS) and offer no record of discussion, if any occurred. Of the ten AAAS Executive Committee members present at the time, as many as half (Cattell, Compton [*5], Conklin, McKinley, and Moulton) joined the RCPA--no doubt suggesting that these powerful AAAS figures were happy to lend their symbolic support to the new endeavor. Gaining associated or affiliated status with the AAAS was not uncommon for special research societies, and the AAAS was not averse to granting such statuses to a wide variety of organizations--its register numbered over 160 associated or affiliated societies in 1937 (Moulton, 1937).

At least part of the AAAS's interest lay in the Virginia report-burning experience of April 1938. As we will see in Chapter VIII, fragmentary documentary evidence shows that active RCPA scientists were well aware of the Virginia events and anxious that future mainstream or nontemperance scientific work on alcohol would carry more clout and avoid the sort of fate Waddell and Haag (1938) had suffered. But the Virginia experience is by no means the whole story. Though the RCPA's scientific membership drive may have picked up steam after news of the Virginia fiasco reached the scientific community, it must be recalled that Moulton and the AAAS Executive Committee granted associated status to the RCPA in December 1937 at the AAAS's meetings in Indianapolis, i.e., well before events in Virginia broke on the scene.

What, then, were the broader AAAS's circumstances in late-1937 and 1938 that may best account for the AAAS's attitude toward the new alcohol group? Fortunately, we can call upon Peter J. Kuznick's recent and excellent study of the depression-era AAAS--titled Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists as Political Activists in 1930s America (1987)--for the main outlines of an answer to this question (*6). Kuznick (1987, pp. 9-37) argues that the American scientific community stood in a quite special relationship to the country's Great Depression. The post-war economic boom of the 1920s had been popularly perceived as partly powered by great expansion in the country's scientific and technological knowhow. Even before the stock market crash in 1929, however, many Americans had both marveled at and feared the seemingly ever-increasing pace of social change around them. These fears gave rise to a popular genre of social commentaries chronicling recent social change and warning that human social institutions had shown no equivalent capacity for adaptation. Raymond B. Fosdick's The Old Savage and the New Civilization (1929) was one of the best known of these works. The Lynds' (1957 [1929]) late-1920s study of Middletown gave ample evidence that such anxieties could be found even in the country's smaller and more traditional communities.

Before the crash, however, the prospect of continued economic growth fueled by rapidly increasing scientific knowledge and technology quieted such fears. Scientists enjoyed a new social regard for the labor-saving and wealth-generating consequences of their inventions, and the American scientific community did little to dissociate itself from credit for such contribution. One result was a great expansion in the country's production of Ph.D. scientists, which roughly tripled between 1920 and 1930 (Scates et al., 1951, cited in Kuznick, 1987, p. 10). The 1920s also saw great expansion in the social standing of scientists, in the citation of scientific authority in matters great and small, and in the newsworthiness of new scientific achievements. A small but vocal community of science detractors was also heard. In 1927, for example, an English cleric, Rev. Edward Arthur Burroughs, called for a 10-year moratorium on scientific research, in order that the impact of new science on civilization might be halted and carefully examined (cited in Kuznick, 1987, p. 15). Though the proposal created a flurry of controversy, its main effect was probably that of providing a soapbox for science advocates. Nobel prize-winning physicist, Robert A. Milliken, among others, offered stirring defenses against "science's alleged sins" (in Kuznick, 1987, p. 17).

But the onset of the Great Depression turned the tables on the American scientific community. The depression had occasioned massive unemployment--much of which was regarded as technologically-caused and therefore partly science's fault. Expert opinion, from Stuart Chase to President Hoover's Committee on Recent Social Trends, drew attention to technological unemployment and mused at how the country might overcome it (in Kuznick, 1987, p. 19). The often abstract and academic commentaries and debates on science's potential for social harm of the 1920s now come home with bitter reality.

American science, then, was doubly victimized by the Great Depression. Not only did scientists themselves share in the country's growing unemployment but science was widely villainized for having been largely responsible for the depression in the first place. Ryder (1985) termed it "the revolt against science." American scientists responded in a number of ways. Some turned toward the cultivation of greater governmental support for science and greatly increased social planning (see Kargon and Hodes, 1985). Others aggrandized science in elaborate and lavish exhibitions at contemporary World's Fairs (see Ryder, 1985).

Kuznick (1987, p. 20 et seq.) outlines additional response styles. Some scientists sought to draw a clear distinction between the innocence of science as a pure pursuit and its sometimes unintended consequences in technology and society. (This rhetorical approach had the disadvantage of distancing pure science from the good consequences of technology, too.) Many scientists argued that scientific innovation--on balance and over the long run--actually expanded rather than contracted the workforce. Others argued that scientific knowledge and scientific method ought now to be applied to the very social and economic problems that had brought the country to its current despair--in other words, that current unscientific means for understanding social problems and for governance were outdated. Still others suggested that newly created science-based industries might be developed to spark economic recovery (Kuznick, 1987, p. 23). An increasingly vocal and left-leaning faction of the scientific community argued for radical political change and the introduction of a planned economy or socialism into American society. For a few scientists, the Great Depression threw a dark shadow across American economic and social assumptions. Other scientists, however, stopped considerably short of such calls, settling simply for more involvement by scientists in the running of the country's affairs. Still others modestly questioned whether the mere command of scientific method gave scientists a sufficiently strong instrument to better understand and improve upon American social and economic organization. And the occasional scientists even recommended against squandering science's remaining prestige and authority in social science's historically frustrating domains (in Kuznick, 1987, pp. 59-60). A great variety of symposia, public address occasions, popular articles, and industrial shows provided occasions for prominent scientists to defend what they perceived to be an increasingly besieged scientific community. Later in the decade, the influx of refugee scientists from the Third Reich further strained science's employment situation.

Not surprisingly, the Great Depression placed great pressure on the social scientific community in particular--economists, political scientists, sociologists, psychologists, and historians. They were obliged, on the one hand, to fend off probing questions from the society at large regarding the failure of their disciplines to predict, prevent, understand, or cure the depression and, on the other hand, to fend off the attentions of newly socially-responsible natural scientists suddenly anxious to invade their domains. Robert S. Lynd's masterful Knowledge for What? The Place of Social Science in American Culture, published in 1939, offers a compelling picture of this circumstance and its consequences for the American social science community. Often, social and natural scientists traced the impotence of their contemporary disciplines with respect to the economic crisis to the over-specialization of contemporary scientific pursuits. Calls for more multidisciplinary research and cooperation across ordinarily wide interdisciplinary gaps became commonplace (see Lynd, 1939).

Mathematical astronomer Forest Ray Moulton could hardly avoid the controversy surrounding American science. He had been elected to the AAAS's most prestigious and influential post on 31 December 1936, at its semi-annual meeting in Atlantic City (Kuznick, 1987, p. 71). Moulton was the hand-picked candidate of the AAAS's iconoclastic and politically outspoken Executive Committee chair and editor of AAAS-related publications, James McKeen Cattell. Now, as the AAAS's official leading science advocate, Moulton acquired the double responsibility of protecting and--if possible--expanding the employment market for scientists, on the one hand, and defending science's social image, on the other. Moulton response to the latter challenge was to launch a "Science and Society" (S&S) movement at the AAAS's year-end 1936 meetings. In contrast to the other avenues noted above, Moulton's S&S movement provided a relatively conservative and meliorist avenue of response to the societal challenge science faced.

Moulton and AAAS President E.G. Conklin offered the Science and Society movement as a means "to develop a new social sense among American society" (Kuznick, 1987, p. 72). This formulation addressed the widespread image of science as an isolated, "ivory-tower" pursuit--in which uncaring seekers after scientific knowledge and power ignored the lives and fortunes of the ordinary people forced to live under the impact of uncontrolled technological change. Conklin caricatured this stereotype in an anecdote at the beginning of his retiring AAAS-presidential address on 27 December 1937. "During the dark days of the world war," Conklin said, "I once spoke to a distinguished scientist of some major event in the course of the war and he looked up from his work and said sharply, 'What war?'" (Conklin, 1937, p. 595).

In fact, the S&S movement involved a complex of themes that stretched far beyond dissolving the ivory-tower stereotype. This complex addressed the full variety of threats science faced and was never fully worked out in logically precise terms. Sometimes, the S&S theme boiled down to a recounting of science's many social virtues and contributions, sometimes it was science's current need to stand up to foreign totalitarianism on behalf of free inquiry and expression (see Moulton, 1938, p. 100), sometimes it was an advertisement for science's potential utility in solving social problems (see "Science," 1938), sometimes it was a call for internal cooperation and solidarity among scientists, and sometimes it was simply a call for science to nurture its own social conscience.

The Science and Society program provided the centerpiece of the December 1937 AAAS meetings at Indianapolis (see Moulton, 1937). In all, a total of five symposia were planned--each presented at the semi-annual meetings until December 1939. F.R. Moulton's brother--Brookings Institution president, Harold G. Moulton (see H.G. Moulton, 1938)--was appointed by a three-person AAAS committee to design the series.

The Indianapolis meeting drew intense press interest in the Science and Society symposia offerings. Moulton characterized the occasion as "the beginning of a new era in the association" (quoted in Kuznick, 1987, p. 76). In his own account of the meeting, Moulton quoted a Washington Post editorial to the effect that "the current movement might be described as an effort to shift from science for science's sake to science for the sake of humanity" (in Kuznick, 1987, p. 77). Moulton also echoed the then often-heard call for the need for integration among the sciences, in order to better understand their relationship to society. The mood of the occasion was buoyant and expansive. Eduard Lindeman of the New School of Social Research urged that science be employed to test the workability of human values. Economist Wesley Clair Mitchell was elected President of the AAAS at this session, only the second time in its history the association had drawn its president from the Economics and Social Sciences Section (Kuznick, 1987, p. 81). Gove Hambridge, a United States Department of Agriculture researcher, warned that "the nation faced grave dangers 'unless we can apply this method to social problems as we apply it to problms in the natural sciences, putting aside prejudice and passion and seeking truth wherever it may lead'" (in Kuznick, 1987, p. 81). These were rhetorical chords very familiar to the alcohol group applying for an affiliated status at the AAAS's Executive Committee meeting at these same Indianapolis meetings.

The heady and visionary quality of the Indianapolis Science and Society symposia and the movement's projected plans over the next two years can be said to offer the immediate climate of opinion and action that the RCPA encountered when McKinley brought its request for associated status to the AAAS Executive Committee meetings in Indianapolis. F.R. Moulton may well have welcomed the group simply because it reflected a renewed scientific approach to an old social problem--one of the themes of the S&S drive. He may also have welcomed the group because the S&S movement was, in fact, rather short on exemplars of science actually helping in the solution of social problems. Before long, the S&S movement would require concrete examples of actual social contribution--and so the alcohol group may have attracted his interest because it was a challenging problem territory for testing science's mettle.

An intriguing indirect indicator of the S&S movement's salience to the RCPA's AAAS link can be found in the index of Kuznick's (1987) monograph. A comparison of names listed in Kuznick's index with the roster of RCPA membership announced in October 1938 shows that fully fourteen of the RCPA's 89 charter members also appear in Kuznick's index in connection with the AAAS's Science and Society movement or associated social activity (these included Bowman, Cannon, Carlson, Cattell, Compton, Conklin, Graham, Jewett, Millikan, Mitchell, Moulton, Pegram, Shapley, and Wilbur--see Fig. 1 for full names and affiliations). Aside from Bowman, Carlson, and Wilbur, these scientists did not pursue alcohol-related research themselves, and so their participation in the RCPA cannot be accounted for simply in terms of substantive interest. The group included seven past, current, or future AAAS presidents (Millikan in 1930, Conklin in 1937, Mitchell in 1938, Cannon in 1939, [A.H.] Compton in 1942, Carlson in 1944, and Shapley in 1947) and two Nobel laureates (Compton and Millikan). It seems reasonable to conclude that these men's names appeared on the RCPA membership list to lend the new group the fullest measure of the AAAS's symbolic support, in the spirit of the Science and Society Movement (*7).


The end of 1938 marked the five-year anniversary of Repeal, a milestone to which Drys and Wets both tried to draw the country's attention. For Drys, it was a time to sum up the wreckage Repeal had wrought (see, for example, Maynard, 1938 and Holmes, 1934, 1935, 1936, and 1937). Dry reviews reported ever-rising alcohol consumption levels and tallied a growing count of drunkenness arrests, drunk driving arrests and alcohol-related auto accidents, the continuation of illegal liquor trade, and so on. Naturally, it was difficult for Wets and other Americans to judge the credibility of this seeming threat. As Dry rhetoric grew more strident and self-assured, more and more Wets and others who wished to avoid another full-blown temperance campaign wondered at what the immediate future held in store. Concerned Wets read heightening Dry hyperbole as an indicator of renewed Dry sentiment and the onset of another fearful swing of the social-change pendulum.

Periodicals that were neither Dry nor Wet also reviewed the country's experience since Repeal in 1937 and 1938, usually offering a milder appraisal of the country's alcohol situation (see, for example, "Sociological," 1937; "Four," 1937; "Dry," 1937). Isabelle Keating, writing in the Literary Digest for October 1937, noted the range across contemporary Repeal evaluations:

A dry's-eye view is that [the liquor industry] is back to all its old iniquities. A wet's-eye view is that it is circumscribed, chastened, and wiser. Probably no one will ever be quite satisfied with the liquor industry (Keating, 1937, p. 20).
"If the public is largely indifferent at this moment to the drys," Keating concluded,
the liquor industry is not. It remembers too acutely that January morning in 1920 when the bootlegger took over....In this, the fourth year of its rebirth, the industry has the bitter experience of the twenties to draw on, and it walks with circumspection (Keating, 1937, p. 22).
In December, 1938 the Distilled Spirits Institute (the national trade association for liquor producers) published a pamphlet titled Five Years of Repeal. It bore the greeting "Many Happy Returns" on its cover, sandwiched between the dates "Dec. 5 1933" (Repeal's passage) and "Dec. 5 1938." The pamphlet reproduced 37 reprints of favorable editorials about Repeal and its fifth anniversary, which had recently appeared in newspapers across the country. The pamphlet's final page offered a table titled "Public Revenues from Alcoholic Beverages 1933-1938" whose yearly figures summed to $4,259,488,503. Regular public revenue reports were a common beverage-industry public-relations device in this period.

One measure of the uncertainty surrounding these reviews of Repeal and the chances for a new Dry drive for prohibition is the persistence of this topic in periodical literature. Pro-Wet Liberty Magazine ran an article titled "Prohibition--Will It Happen Again?" in 1942 (Collins, 1942). In 1944, the sense that the country was in the midst of a new prohibition initiative was palpable enough for the American Sociological Review to publish an article by Alfred McClung Lee comparing the strategies and circumstances of the "new prohibition drive" with those of the old (i.e., the one culminating in national prohibition in 1920). Frank DeBlois published a piece titled "The Drys Are on the March Again," assessing the prospects for renewed prohibition, in Parade in 1947. Repeal Review--the pro-Wet journal published to keep tabs on Dry activities--remained in publication from 1934 to 1962. So tenacious was the insecurity some Wets felt about Dry initiatives that their monitorings continued for almost thirty years into the post-Repeal era.


On 3 October 1938 Karl Bowman and Forest Moulton staged a press conference announcing the formation of the RCPA as an associated AAAS society. Moulton provided a lengthy press release based on a 19-page "outline" authored by Bowman. The release was published in Science ("Report," 1938), the AAAS's official organ, and given extensive coverage in a front-page New York Times article ("Scientists Launch," 1938). The Times' article was titled "Scientists Launch Unbiased Study of Drink Problem" and was outfitted with fully three subtitles: "Form a Research Council to Amass Facts and Present Them for Discussion," "Chaos of Opinion Seen," and "Hasty Conclusions on Any Measures to Curb Liquor Trade Will Be Avoided." Moulton's announcement first stressed the group's large, prestigious and nationally-based membership, noting that it comprised "nearly 100 distinguished scientists and educators from various sections of the country as well as a group of citizens prominent in public and industrial life" ("Report," 1938, p. 329).

Bowman's outline bore a coversheet illustration of a "vicious circle" of alcohol-related social change, capitalizing on contemporary fears of both a renewed Dry movement and cyclical alternation in the country's alcohol policy. At the circle's top was "Repeal," and around the circle--connected by arcing arrows--was an hypothesized succession of events: "Excesses and Abuses," "Public Protest," "Prohibition," "Bootlegging and contempt for Law," "Public Protest," and, finally, back to "Repeal." The circle symbolically positioned the proposed new scientific assault on the country's alcohol problems as an escape from cyclicity. The group's plan, the report quoted from Bowman's outline, was to make a "thorough, unbiased and strictly scientific investigation of the problems related to the control of alcoholic beverages and to seek solutions through a program of unprejudiced research and education" ("Report," 1938, p. 330). Moulton ranked "symposia in this area" in importance with those on "such problems of public health as cancer, tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis and mental health" ("Report," 1938, p. 330). Next, the text introduced the group's officers: Bowman (Executive Committee chair), the fourteen other members of the Executive Committee (see Fig. 1), Moore (Director), and AAAS President, Wesley C. Mitchell (ex officio RCPA member).

How was the group's raison d'eˆtre described? First, both prohibition's and Repeal's failures were cited. "Prohibition," Bowman's outline stated, "was not successful."

A large army of law enforcement officers with funds totalling many millions of dollars was not able, from 1920 to 1933, to prohibit the sale and use of alcoholic beverages. Repeal has not been successful. Excesses and abuses are evident to all. Under both prohibition and repeal, alcoholic beverages, when used unwisely, have caused inefficiency, disease, and death ("Report," 1938, p. 330).

Harry H. Moore
F.R. Moulton 
Wesley C. Mitchell
Ex Officio
Karl M. Bowman
Hans T. Clarke 

Willard E.Givens

Chair, Exec. Com.
Chair, Scientific Com., Prof. Biochem., Columbia Univ. 
Chair , Educational Com., Exec. Sec., NEA
Additional Executive Committee Members:
Luther Gulick 
Austin H. MacCormick 
Nolan D.C. Lewis

Comm. of Correction, New York City
Prof. Psychiatry, Columbia Univ.


Winfred Overholser 
A.T. Poffenberger 
Albert W. Whitney 


Sprtndt., St. Eliz.'s Hosp., Wash. D.C
Prof. Psychology, Columbia Univ.
Consulting Dir., Nat. Conservation Bur.

Members of 
Scientific Committee:
Philip Bard 
Walter B. Cannon 
Alan M. Chesney 
Edwin G. Conklin 
ThomasR.Crowder Frederick P. Gay Frank B. Jewett 
Norman Jolliffe

Prof. of Physiology, Johns Hopkins 
Prof. of Physiology, Harvard 
Dean, School of Med., Johns Hopkins
Prof. of Biology, Princeton 
Dir., [Medical] Dept., Pullman Co. 
Prof. of Bacteriology, Columbia Univ.
Pres., Bell Telephone Labs 
Bellevue Hosp. 


E.K. Marshall 
George B. Pegram 
Charles R. Stockard 
Edward A. Strecker 
Warren T. Vaughan 
C.H. Watson 
Wilis R. Whitney 


Prof. of Pharm, Johns Hopkins 
Prof. of Physics, Columbia Univ.
Prof. of Anatomy, Cornell Med. Col. 
Prof. of Psychiatry, Univ. of Penn. 
Physician, Richmond, Virginia
Medical Dir., AT&T Co. 
V. Pres. for Research, GE Corp. 

Additional Members:
Anton J. Carlson 
Ray Lyman Wilbur 
J. McKeen Cattell 
Walter M. Dickie 
Charles H. Durfee 
Vincent du Vigneaud 
Foster Kennedy 
Eugene Opie 
Harlow Shapley 
Wilson G. Smillie 
M.H. Soule 
John Sundwall 
H.E. Himwich 
Arthur H. Compton 
Otto P. Geier 
Clarence M. Hinck Esmond R. Long 
R.A. Millikan 
Stuart Mudd 
Bernard Sachs 
W.A. Sawyer 
Loyal A. Shoudy 
C.V. Weller 
Reginald M. Atwater George Gehrmann 
McIver Woody 
Prof. Phys., Univ. Chicago
Pres., Stanford Univ.
Editor, The Science Press
Dir. Pub. Hlth., State Calif. 
Psychotherapist, Wakefield, RI
Prof. Biochem., Cornell Med. Col.
Prof. Neurology, Cornell Univ. 
Prof. Pathology, Cornell Univ. 
Prof. Astronomy, Harvard
Prof. Pub. Hlth., Cornell Univ. 
Prof. Bactrlgy., Univ. Michigan 
Pres., Am. Assoc. Sch. Physicians 
Prof. Physiol., Albany Med. Col. 
Prof. Physics, Univ. Chicago 
Chief Med. Off., Cincinnati Milling
Gen. Dir., Nat. Com. for Men. Hygn. 
Dir., Henry Phipps Inst. 
Chair, Exec. Council, CIT 
Prof. Bactrlgy., Univ. Penn. 
Neurologist, New York 
Medical Dir., Eastman Kodak Co. 
Chief Med. Off., Bethlehem Steel 
Prof. Pathology, Univ. Michigan 
Exec. Sec., Am. Pub. Hlth. Assoc. 
Med. Dir., duPont de Nemours Co. 
Physician, Standard Oil NJ
John L. Rice 
Adolf Meyer 
Howard Funk Jr.
Fred J. Kelly 
Daniel Prescott 
Homer P. Rainey 
Thomas D. Wood 
Willard W. Beatty 
Frank P. Graham 
R.A. Kent
Roy G. Ross 
Donald J. Cowling 
F.L. Bishop 
John Q. Rhodes 
Roger William Riis
W. Roy Breg 
Thomas H. MacDonald 
Russel E. Singer 
Samuel Thorne 
Thomas D. Thacher 
Percy Jackson 
Harold B. Hoskins 
Edward W. Freeman 
Edwin C. Jameson 
Graham Edgar V. 
Commissioner Health, New York City 
Psych.-in-Chief, Johns Hopkins Hosp. 
Hi. Princ., Bronxville, N.Y. 
Chief, Div. Hi. Ed., U.S. Off. Ed. 
Prof. Education, Rutgers Univ. 
Dir., Am. Youth Commission 
Chair, Jnt. Com. on Hlth. Probs.
Dir. Ed., U.S. Off. Indian Affairs
Pres., Univ. North Carolina
Pres., Univ. Louisville 
Gen. Sec., Interntl Religious Ed. 
Pres., Carleton Col.
Highway Education Board
Pres., Am. Assoc. Mot. Veh. Ad. 
Public Relations Council
Exec. Sec., Allied Youth 
Chief, US Bureau Pub. Roads 
General Manager, AAA
V. Pres., Cannon Mills Inc.
V. Pres., Suchar Process Co. 
Pres., Hamilton Fire Insurance Co. 
Pres., Ethyl Gas Corporation

What, then, was this new group proposing to do? The text suggested that in only two alcohol-related problem areas could one find consensus and overlap across Dry and Wet camps. These--namely, the "specific evils" of alcoholism and alcohol-involved highway accidents--stood out from a much larger territory of alcohol-related problems that offered only a "chaos of opinion." With respect to these chaotic areas, moreover, there was a danger of "hasty and unwarranted decisions in respect to the legal control of the liquor business." Moreover, the entire area of alcohol was "superimposed" with "emotional and political elements."

The solution to this perplexing societal dilemma, the outline offered, lay in scientific research. "It has become evident that nothing can be done with the application of main force," the text argued.

If we are to find a way out, it can be only through the development of a complete factual basis on which can be built some effective plan of action. The main and primary objective of the Research Council on Problems of Alcohol is the development of such facts; the secondary objective is to make these facts available to the public in such a way that they will do the most good. Since the development of facts is essentially a scientific procedure, the personnel of the Council will be predominately made up of persons who are working in the field of science. To these will be added such others from the fields of education, business and public life as will be able to assist in carrying out the secondary objective ("Report," 1938, p. 330).
But how would scientific knowledge serve to solve the country's putative alcohol-related problems? Here the text offered an extended argument on behalf of the notion that solutions were not the proper product of scientific involvement in the area. Science, instead, would offer trustworthy factual information. This information in the hands of "men and women of intelligence, integrity and leadership" would lead to better solutions. The group, indeed, emphasized the things it was not, as a means for distancing itself from past Dry and Wet efforts: "The Council will not arrive at conclusions based on assumptions or prejudiced opinion, engage in propaganda, lobby for liquor control laws, or participate in political campaigns" ("Report," 1938, pp. 330-331).

Instead, a slow but sure process of research, education, and control would be set in motion based on a solid foundation of research. Alcohol education, the text continued, had all but ceased during prohibition and Wet and Dry propaganda had taken its place. "Now," the text read, "education must be strictly scientific; instruction must be given without prejudice, emotion or moralizing." Measures of control--both self-control at the individual level and societal control at the level of industrial or legal strictures--would also be better "justified" if based on sound research ("Report," 1938, p. 331). After briefly describing the group's unbiased publication policies, the report closed with a long list of its Scientific Committee members and members at large (see Fig. 1).


Scientists had by now clearly secured control of the RCPA. Yet the group's emphasis lay not so much in the promise of the fruits of new research nor in new research's direct contribution to policy, but instead in the importance of safeguarding society's information system and its content. Science, in this regard, was being offered primarily on behalf of its objectivity. Ironically, objectivity, in this case, could also perform admirable double-duty as a veil with which to obscure the Dry-leaning or Wet-leaning connotations of RCPA assertions. Consider, for a single example of this, Moulton's association of alcohol with "cancer, tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis and mental health." These five conditions had in common both that they were regarded as still shrouded in ignorance and superstition by the unenlightened portion of the public and that they remained the great unfinished business (with the exception of leprosy) of American public health. Note that the drafters of the outline did not choose to associate alcohol with conditions that had actually been defeated by the application of science--e.g., yellow fever, diphtheria, small pox, or cholera. In fact, the cancer-headed list offered much more flexible rhetorical utilities. In the eyes of Wet readers alcohol's association with cancer and the other stigmatized diseases might be interpreted to mean that the ignorance and superstition with which alcohol had been addressed in American society would at last be dispelled by the calm and rational touch of science. In Dry eyes, on the other hand, the association might be read as an affirmation that the evils of beverage alcohol were being duly recognized and acknowledged.

Perhaps the greatest resources for this sort of cultivated ambiguity, ironically, lay in science's very association with truth. Given that science led to truth, both sides of the Dry/Wet debate might quietly but confidently anticipate that science would ultimately vindicate their initial stance toward alcohol. This utility was most clearly illustrated in a couple of the responses the RCPA received from the announcement's readers. Well-known Dry spokesperson John Holmes Haynes, for example, wrote approvingly that

in giving my support to the work of the Research Council on Problems of Alcohol, I would make my position clear. I hate the liquor traffic as my fathers hated the slave traffic. I believe in and practice total abstinence and have always been a prohibitionist. I am opposed to all counsels of moderation, since I believe there can be no moderation in the fight against booze....What interests me in the work of The Research Council is the fact that it brings the scientific method and scientific spirit of objective research into this great field of alcohol and alcoholism. I am so confident that liquor is one hundred per cent evil, that I can feel no doubt that the results of this proposed inquiry will be all to the good so far as the Drys are concerned (Holms statement, 24 Jan 39, LMA).
Exemplary responses on the Wet side were offered by, for example, Leo R. Sack, director of public relations, Schenley Distillers Corporation, and Gene Tunney, chairman of the board, American Distilling Co. (and former heavyweight boxing champion). Sack wrote:
There is no industry in the roll call of American business concerning which more misinformation has been circulated and more misconceptions have arisen than the distilling industry. Since the turn of the century, the distilling industry has not only been the football of politics, but it has been the favorite theme of professional alarmists. The Schenley Distillers Corporation therefore welcomes with genuine pleasure the proposed unbiased study which will be made [by] a group of scientists under the direction of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (RCPA Packet, LMA).
Tunney wrote:
I am not thoroughly conversant with the proposed program of the council, but I should say that a strictly scientific approach by an outstanding and competent group such as this seems to me would be of great assistance in clearing up misunderstandings and in arriving at a general practice of moderation and temperance. For, after all, that is what everyone intelligently interested in the liquor industry is searching for (RCPA Packet, LMA).
Astonishingly, all three statements--along with a number more--were actually circulated to potential funders in a packet of public responses that the RCPA enclosed with its roster of funds-awaiting research studies.

In general the RCPA's press release drew mixed reaction. The New York Herald Tribune ("Cold," 1938) editorialized cheekily that even the question of whether the alcohol problem had become "one of the major perplexities of our civilization"--an assertion in Bowman's outline--ought to have been reserved until research might test it. Still, the editors lauded the "let the chips fall where they may" spirit of the group's prospectus. A Christian Century ("Alcohol Control," 1938) editorialist criticized the RCPA's seemingly pre-judged assertion of the futility of "main force." The American Business Men's Research Foundation (ABMRF) and the New York Times editorialists were even less pleased. The ABMRF, a Dry organization based in Chicago, addressed an open letter to the RCPA's officers and sent a courtesy copy to Wilbur as well. The ABMRF noted that the RCPA could hardly advertise itself as free from presumption and prejudice when the group had begun from the assumptions that prohibition was a failure, main force was useless, and hasty and ineffective controls should not be embraced. Prohibition, ABMRF President, Charles R. Jones wrote, was not a failure at all but instead the only historically proven means for controlling the liquor traffic. The RCPA, Jones continued, had asserted the need for scientific facts, but how could such an assertion be made in the face of the literature's

comprehensive studies and investigations, employing the latest scientific methods and instruments, by outstanding men in scientific and medical fields of Great Britain, continental Europe and in America, which today comprise a body of responsible data that, in the opinion of world-recognized authorities, now afford ample, accurate basis for sane legal action (Statement, Jones to RCPA, 28 Oct 38, LMA).
What was really needed, Jones continued, was not more scientific facts but "rather a program to widely disseminate and promote the application of the great body of scientific and social findings already assembled." Jones hinted that the scientists the group had assembled might be too Wet for his taste. The New York Times editorial response ("Alcohol Again," 1938) yawned much the same objection, minus the Dry slant. It greeted with "astonishment" that a new study of alcohol was proposed when
the medical libraries are filled with the conclusions reached by pharmacologists, physiologists, psychiatrists, chemists, statisticians, psychologists on the basis of painstaking laboratory research and with elaborate reports by social scientists and by official investigators of the principal European countries. Granted that the scientists have not been in accord on all phases of the physiological effect of alcohol, granted, too, that every system of control has its defects, what reason is there to suppose that the American Association will settle a highly controversial issue and supply 'law enactment and law enforcement' with any scientific knowledge that is now lacking ("Alcohol Again," 1938, p. 24).
"Exactly what does the Council mean by its promise to conduct 'research'?" the editorial continued. If research meant laboratory studies, then great expense would result with no appreciable addition to the "mountain of facts already accumulated." If research meant "digesting and criticizing the scentific [sic], legal and sociological information now available," then "research" was not really the right word for it. Ironically, it was the height of prejudice--voiced by those apparently so determined to be free of prejudice--to assert that the proposed research would outdo the efforts of so many past researchers. "Possibly a fresh study of the alcohol problem may do some good," the editorial concluded, "but it should not be heralded in advance as something without which it is impossible to formulate an acceptable program of education and control" ("Alcohol Again," 1938, p. 24). The RCPA would feel the sting of these words for some months to come.

Like the New York Times, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union's (WCTU) Union Signal reported the RCPA's announcement in two forms--first, a description based largely on Bowman's outline ("Scientists Announce," 1938) and, second, an editorial reaction ("All," 1938). The descriptive report did take exception to the notion that the AAAS's (which was mysteriously abbreviated "A.A.A." in their text) new enterprise began from "the premise that the Prohibition movement has been an utter failure and the new program is definitely committed to look with favor on the legalized liquor trade" ("Scientists Announce," 1938, p. 5). This implication, the article suggested, was the handiwork of "some of the newspapers of the country with definite wet leanings" ("Scientists Announce," 1938, p. 5). The true attitude of the RCPA toward the liquor traffic, the article conceded, was difficult to assess. The council's membership, the article continued, "includes prominent names known, possibly in equal numbers, on each side of the wet and dry controversies, and other names heretofore not publicly associated with issues arising out of beverate alcohol" ("Scientists Announce," 1938, p. 5).

The WCTU's editorial response, titled "All Around the Mulberry Bush Once Again," showed little pleasure at the new group's announcement. The text rejected the RCPA's apparent conviction that all past alcohol research was biased. Such research had been accomplished by scientists of the highest standing. Moreover, was not "all scientific research" fair and honest? The editorial reminded the RCPA that alcohol research had a long history and that its results had varied little from time to time. Like the Times' editorial, WCTU noted as an "astonishing assumption" that the RCOA saw their enterprise as new. The editorial seems to have taken particular critical delight in the RCPA outline's suggestion that "the Council's educational program calls for enlisting the aid of manufacturers and distributors of alcohol beverages themselves, through informing them of the social effects of alcohol on communities" ("All," 1938, p. 8).

It is breathtaking! The saloonkeeper must have scientific aid to see in the streets about his saloon hungry, unkempt children whose fathers patronize his place of business. 'The children's milk money is the father's beer money,' is an old saying again true. He does not know that his saloon is the center of prostitution and gambling. He must be told that his patrons move to poorer living quarters and fewer young people have educational privileges. But the council is to inform these persons, naively expecting that all these things they daily see will be remedied ("All," 1938, p. 8).
The editorial took particular offense, it seems, at the RCPA's assertion that "there may be a growing danger in the renewed activity of the nation's dry forces, when such activity is not based upon a firm foundation of facts. The Council fears hasty and ineffective action may result" (quoted in "All," 1938, p. 8). The editorial responded with high pride and righteousness:
The organization responsible for The Union Signal holds itself as an agency to transmit to the soical order the findings of scientists, sociologists, physiologists, psychologists, psychiatrists and economists of the highest possible reputation upon every phase of beverage alcohol. Yet this is among the groups which the Council fears ("All," 1938, p. 8).
Bowman's "vicious circle" illustration was interpreted by the editorial as a good omen--"evidently Prohibition has some advantages over the present," it noted. Old wounds were also clearly irritated. The editorial lamented that the new research endeavor did not appear to envisage research into the manner in which Repeal was stolen away from the American people by unfair tactics and an unrepresentive vote.
Let the Council investigate 'without prejudice' the only method of dealing with the liquor habit and traffic which ever made a dent upon it, ever produced results beneficial to society, and it will render a public service....We apologize to the Council but the proposition [i.e., the proposed research program] seems somewhat like the laboratory experience when a professor was teaching his class the scientific way to kill a mosquito. 'You must catch the mosquito, open his mouth, and drop a tiny bit of strychnine therein,' he explained. At this, a well-bitten boy shouted, 'Oh, why not swat him' ("All," 1938, pp. 8-9)?


When the fledgling RCPA--and its originally Dry-leaning educationally-oriented mission--came in contact with the AAAS in December 1937, the alcohol group encountered a set of interests that were quite different from its own. The earlier SCNCA had hoped to use a link to a prestigious scientific association to add credibility to its educational pronouncements and insure their perception as neutral and independent of both Wet and Dry objectives. The AAAS, however, seems to have seen the alcohol group as a convenient medium for exercising its social conscience, newly enlivened by Moulton's Science and Society movement. Which relationship would prevail? Before 1938 was over RCPA/AAAS contact had reversed the old SCNCA vision of user and used. Instead of providing a scientific medium for a Dry-leaning group's goal to vouchsafe alcohol-related pedagogy, the new RCPA soon found itself using the country's alcohol-related problems as a medium for the promotion of science.

But how was this new scientific assault going to solve the alcohol problem? Bowman and Moulton's announcement did not stress alcoholism as a major target--it merely asserted that alcoholism was one area in which Drys and Wets were in agreement that a problem existed (in many other areas, the press release continued, disagreement reigned). Neither did the RCPA announcement suggest that particular directions of scientific research would be pursued because the results of that research would solve the alcohol problem--as, for example, when research aiming to cure a particular illness is proposed. Bowman, instead, focused his rhetorical energies elsewhere. His use of the "vicious circle" illustration on his outline's cover framed the RCPA's mission in terms of stopping endless and cyclical controversy over alcohol. But how was science going to stop controversy?

Bowman's and Moulton's presentation deftly offered a number of ways. The authority of the scientific body being assembled was stressed--certainly it would help thwart controversy. The capacity for mainstream science to provide unbiased and objective information to the society would also tend to thwart controversy. Indeed, accurate knowledge might stifle controversy both by ending controversy over the information's accuracy, per se (a preoccupation in the struggle over Repeal) and by drawing a connection between the accuracy of information and the ease with which reasonable men and women might draw correct policy conclusions. Even science's institutional commitments to disinterested, rational, and emotionless evaluation of evidence was called into play by Bowman and Moulton as a potential conflict-thwarting factor.

But Bowman and Moulton did not explicitly assert science's conflict-thwarting service as the RCPA's chief goal. Instead, they offered an image of the country's alcohol problem in which the mere production of valid and mutually-agreed (i.e., Dry-Wet concord) facts would somehow bring the nation to better policy understandings and conclusions. In this respect, at least, the RCPA operated within an ancient (if tacit) metaphysical framework that equated empirical knowledge of the world's operation with ethical knowledge of how to operate within that world. Taken at face value, Bowman and Moulton were suggesting that (1) the information itself in respect to alcohol has become distorted and untrustworthy over the course of the long Dry/Wet struggle and (2) undistorted information, per se--operated upon by unbiased minds--would be sufficient to imply consensual solutions to alcohol-related problems. In this sense, they presented the alcohol problem as essentially as a misinformation problem (*8).

It is difficult to assess how seriously Moulton, Bowman, and other RCPA members intended this information-purifying approach to the alcohol problem. I am inclined to see it as an approach springing from the RCPA's perceived rhetorical need to present its new scientific enterprise as wholly separate from any foregone conclusions or policy implications. The crucial aspect of the RCPA's pure-information model of the alcohol problem was that it focused the RCPA's activities on information, per se, and not on what to do with it. And this separation between information and its use, in turn, distinguished the RCPA's research enterprise from alternative and relatively similar enterprises that were still framed within the rhetorical needs of either the Dry or the Wet camps. In particular, this separation would distinguish the RCPA's mainstream or non-temperance science from the temperance science that had become so familiar to the American public over the past half-century. What was new about the "new scientific approach" was its new neutrality--scientists who worked neither for Dry nor Wet interests would finally have a look at the problem.

But so great a premium on neutrality and indifference to policy might also make it difficult to see how even valid and consensual information would help resolve the country's alcohol-related problems. The most probable consequence of the RCPA's program may have been that it would provide new and certified facts to the debating rostrums of the old Dry and Wet camps. That implication, of course, would run directly against the larger conflict-reducing goal stressed in the RCPA's announcement--and it was never expressed. Therefore, Bowman and Moulton pitched their claim toward the thesis that accurate and certified scientific data would generate new perspectives or alter the positions of the two camps--thus providing avenues of policy or individual choice that were neither Dry nor Wet in character. This solution could not help but raise the hackles of Drys. From the Dry perspective, any compromise (as we have already seen in the experience of Colby and Virginia) represented a validation of at least some drinking, and thus a Dry symbolic defeat.

I have suggested that the interests of scientists in the RCPA in 1938 included both (a) an effort to provide objective and accurate information to the society regarding alcohol and (b) an effort to expand funding for scientific research and scientific employment. The group's retention of Pierce and Hedrick clearly evidences the importance of the second motivation in the young group's perception. The enlistment of Pierce and Hedrick also offers stark evidence of the potential for contradiction between the two motivations, (a) and (b).

The RCPA membership appears to have been at least dimly aware of the dilemma. For example, the group's initial reluctance to engage a public relations firm--as recorded in the meeting minutes--appears to have derived from the fear of lost cultural standing due to "inappropriate" funds-seeking appeals and occasions. Hedrick assured the scientists that funds-seeking would be conducted in a dignified manner and among community of equals. Indeed, Hedrick's reference to "a program of personal interviews" carries the fleeting nuance that potential donors will be examined for their suitability as profferers of funds! Hedrick's willingness to enter into a special bargain "because of the scientific character of the organization" acts to affirm on both sides of the negotiation a common evaluation of the high purpose and standing of the persons and purposes for which the money is being sought. This embroidery of science's cultural standing is continued in the small group's emphasis on increasing the scientific membership and lines of attachment with AAAS. The passage of RCPA funds through AAAS hands and Wilbur's self-consciously in-group appeal to new members also speak in a language of status enhancement and maintenance. Even the small matter of the shifting language in January and June, 1938 introductory paragraphs serves to illustrate how minutely the cultural capital of science would now be traded upon in order to attract desperately needed support.

Nowhere in the documentation I have seen, however, was the irony of this sort of attention to the detail of packaging and presentation directly noted. Here, after all, was a group premising its wider program of social contribution on its native scientific objectivity and disinterestedness. And yet here, too, was a group devoting considerable effort to molding imagery that would win financial support from what was already only too well known to be a reluctant population of potential donors.

Both Drys and Wets could greet the RCPA annoncement with a mixture of skepticism and hope. Skepticism came primarily in the form of the lingering suspicion that the cloud of vagueness that hung about the RCPA's pronouncement actually hid a favoritism toward the opposing camp's interests. The hope, on the other hand, came primarily in the form of one's deep conviction in the fundamental scientific truth of one's alcohol convictions, whether Dry or Wet. Either way, however, it seems fair to guess that any new consensus surrounding alcohol was unlikely to endure long based on the terms provided in Bowman and Moulton's October 1938 pronouncement.


(*1) These included Nicholas M. Butler at Columbia, James B. Conant at Harvard, Thomas S. Gates at Pennsylvania, Isaiah Bowman at Johns Hopkins, Alexander A. Ruthven at Michigan, Frank P. Graham at North Carolina, R.A. Kent at Louisville, Robert L. Menuet at Tulane, and Robert G. Sproul at the University of California, Berkeley.

(*2) Attending were Cassius H. Watson (Chair of the Temporary Executive Committee), Moulton, Bowman, Moore, Cattell, Clarke, J.D. Foster, Luther Gulick, S.W. Hamilton ("representing C.M. Hincks"), Nolan D.C. Lewis, Winfred Overholser, Thomas D. Thatcher, Samuel Thorne, Warren T. Vaughan, Albert W. Whitney, and McIver Woody (Minutes, 16 Sep 38, p. 1, LMA).

(*3) As noted in Chapter IV, the absence of the original SCNCA membership's participation in the post-move RCPA could have contributed to the impression that the RCPA was a new group begun by its New York membership.

(*4) Moulton, as it happens, was an abstainer (Aldrich, 1990), but it is unlikely that this fact had any bearing on his interest in the alcohol group.

(*5) AAAS minutes do not make clear whether it was Arthur Holly Compton (who was an RCPA member) or his brother, Karl Compton (who was not), who was in attendance.

(*6) The remainder of my discussion in this section is deeply indebted to Kuznick's (1987) history and analysis. It might be noted that Kuznick's central interest in the story of mid-1930s U.S. scientists lies in the fact that it provides an intriguing case study in political awakening and formative political experience, and even a process of radicalization. Kuznick (1987) makes no mention of the alcohol field whatever. My use of Kuznick's (1987) work to illuminate the RCPA/AAAS connection, therefore, must be regarded as my responsibility entirely and not Kuznick's.

(*7) Two additional intriguing connections between the Science and Society movement deserve note. First, Yale Physiology Professor and founder of the alcohol research and documentation establishment at Yale, Howard W. Haggard, chaired a series of S&S seminars beginning in November 1938 for the American Institute of New York City (see Kuznick, pp. 96 and 169). Secondly, the much-reprinted volume of lectures and discussions based on the Yale Summer School of 1943 and edited by Haggard, E.M. Jellinek, and Mark Keller bore the title Alcohol, Science and Society--one suspects it was so titled with the intention to link alcohol and alcohol research in this direct way to the ideals of the S&S movement.

(*8) It is tempting to speculate about how much this almost implicit "misinformation" perspective still owed much to the earlier SCNCA's emphasis on alcohol education and a pedagogic mission. In the framework of an educational endeavor solutions to the country's alcohol-related problems were not required--educators, after all, would be content to receive accurate and reliable speech content for their alcohol-education units. Thus, the RCPA's emphasis on the objectivity and accuracy of new scientific information may have quietly owed more to the old SCNCA's orientation to the topic than the group's leadership realized.

To Chapter VIII...