By William “Skip” Deegans
A short list of radical thinkers who have lectured at Lewisburg’s Carnegie Hall would probably include Dr. Wilbur Crafts (pictured). Crafts, who spoke in 1917, was a leading proponent of the prohibition of alcohol and, while collaborating with the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, held a leading role in the movement toward National Prohibition. Moreover, he was opposed to movies, gambling, divorce, smoking, close dancing, and Sunday baseball. He said joy rides at carnivals “often provide a ride of lifelong shame and woe.” He opposed temptations: saloons, gambling dens, houses of prostitution, and revealing clothes.
Born in 1829 in Maine, Crafts was the son of a Methodist minister. After graduating from Wesleyan University and the Boston University School of Theology he became a Methodist, Congregationalist, and Presbyterian minister- in that order.
In 1895, he organized the International Reform Bureau in Washington, DC, and was an indefatigable lobbyist of Congress. He felt it was government’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s authority and to promote Christian morality. In an effort to make churches and their members a political force in this country, he gave as many as six lectures a week all over the United States and in many foreign countries. He sought laws banning pornography, birth control, and abortion. According to Professor Gaines M. Foster, Crafts differed from today’s Christian Right because he believed in working closely with female reformers to expand the public role of women, never made taxes part of his agenda, and didn’t identify himself with any political party.
On the morning of his talk at Carnegie Hall, he spoke to the Methodist Church’s Sunday School and preached the Sunday service at the Old Stone Church. Wilbur died in 1922.
Photo from the Library of Congress.
Sources: Conservative Social Christianity, the Law and Personal Morality: Wilbur F. Crafts in Washington; New York Times.