From 1877 until well after 1900, Lincoln, Nebraska, was the home of a vigorous temperance reform club headed for much of its history by George B. Skinner (1833-95), a local livery stable owner. His longtime presidency of the Red Ribbon temperance club earned him the unofficial title of “Bishop” Skinner, who was said to preside over his club meetings every Sunday afternoon with all the dignity and fervor of a regular bishop.
At first an enthusiastic drinker, Skinner became a teetotaler after hearing a series of lectures by temperance advocate John B. Finch in Lincoln in November of 1877. When Finch brought the Red Ribbon movement to Lincoln, Skinner was soon elected president of the local group and retained the office until he died in 1895. Each club member signed a pledge of abstinence from liquor and wore a red ribbon on his lapel. The Lincoln group, with thousands of signers of the pledge, was said to be one of the largest in the country.
Read an excerpt from “Signing the Pledge: George B. Skinner and the Red Ribbon Club of Lincoln,” published in the Summer 2010 issue of Nebraska History, available from the Nebraska State Historical Society’s Landmark Stores. — Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications