Manners And Customs.
Washington Hotel, in Chester, ceased to be a license house. When it was opened as a temperance tavern flags were suspended across Market Street, a great concourse of people gathered, a brass band furnished music, and speeches were made by prominent teetotalers.
The question of license soon became a political issue, and so concentrated was the pressure brought upon the Legislature that that body passed a bill, which was approved by Governor Porter April 7, 1846, authorizing a vote by the people of the State, by which the electors of cities, boroughs, and townships could determine whether liquor should legally be sold therein. On March 19, 1847, the following vote was cast for and against license in the localities named:
As will be seen in Bethel, where there had never been license granted, so far as I have ascertained, and where the only application ever made to the court of Delaware County, in 1802, was rejected, the majority was for license, and in Ridley the vote was a tie. In the western part of the State a case was made and carried to the Supreme Court to test the law, and at the September term, 1847, Judge Bell delivered an opinion holding the act unconstitutional, inasmuch as it delegated to the people part of the functions of the Legislature, which the fundamental law had reposed solely in the latter body. This decision absolutely paralyzed the "Sons of Temperance," their organizations disbanded, and for some years only a desultory contest against license was continued by a few individuals, noticeable in Upper Darby, until finally even their protest ceased.
After the war of the Rebellion terminated an organization known as Good Templars was formed in Delaware County, and grew rapidly, until in August, 1869, a mass-meeting was held at Media. The courtroom was crowded by members from the various lodges in the county. So formidable had the roll become in numbers that they demanded and procured the passage by the Legislature of the special act for Delaware County of March 9, 1872, better known as the "Holiday Law," which was followed by a movement throughout the State, on the part of the temperance associations, resulting in the act of March 27, 1872, providing that every three years thereafter, at the cities, boroughs, and township elections, the electors therein should vote whether liquor should or should not be sold in such cities and counties, which act is better known as the "Local Option Law." The following is the vote in this county in the spring of 1873, when the question was submitted to the people:
Subsequently the Legislature by the act approved by Governor Hartranft, April 12, 1875, repealed the Local Option Law of 1872, and the special law for Delaware County, of March 9, 1872, was repealed by the act of April 18, 1878.
In concluding this chapter I have written to little purpose if I have failed to show that the present age is much better than "the good old times of Adam and of Eve." It is only by throwing in bold contrast the past with the present that we mark the great progress of mankind. I unhesitatingly state my belief that in morals, in education, in general health, the people of to-day are as much improved over those who lived and acted during our Revolutionary struggles as the latter were superior in that respect to the early settlers. If we could place the old manners of life side by side with those of the present generation, we would be easily convinced that the comforts which now surround the families of moderate means far exceed that maintained among the comparatively wealthy classes of our land a century ago. When we remember that in Penn's time not a floor in the province was covered with a carpet, that tooth-brushes were unknown, and, in fact, that it was regarded as a mark of effeminacy for many years after his day to clean the teeth at all, that personal cleanliness was not considered essential either to comfort or health, that less than a hundred and fifty years ago, among the aristocratic ladies, their