Portrait of a Bahamian

Thursday 07th, April 2011 / 09:07 Published by

Armand Pfister (1802-1857) contributed to the intellectual life of the city in its antebellum heyday. Born in Nassau, New Providence Island, Bahamas, he immigrated with his parents to Pennsylvania in 1814. Four years later, the family moved to Marengo County with the French Olive and Vine Colony.

There, Pfister’s father ran the Demopolis Hotel. On attaining his majority, young Pfister relocated to Mobile, serving as bookkeeper in a mercantile house from 1823 to 1826. He moved again, this time to Tuscaloosa, which he left in 1847 when Montgomery became Alabama’s capital. He did not move again until his death. Although he died in Montgomery, he is buried in Mobile.

In his first year in Montgomery, Pfister joined with a group of like-minded men to form the local chapter of the Sons of Temperance. This organization was one of many founded to combat the evils of excessive alcohol consumption then threatening the nation’s moral fiber. The Sons of Temperance, whose members took a pledge of abstinence, became Alabama’s most powerful antebellum temperance society.

Nevertheless, they were defeated in their 1855 campaign to have the state adopt anti-drinking laws. (The significant increase in drinking associated with the Civil War, followed by massive immigration from “drinking cultures,” delayed national prohibition until 1919.)

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