Anti-Absinthe Propaganda in Schools

For this topic, we will let the images do the talk. Below is an extraordinary large double sided anti-alcohol poster (measuring 118cm x 97cm), illustrating graphically the alleged dangers of industrial alcohol and absinthe, and praising the healthy effects of wine, cider and beer. Designed for display in schools, it clearly shows the influence of the wine lobby as the force behind the French temperance movement, because the use of wine is not only not condemned, it’s almost actively encouraged. Particularly noteworthy are the two contrasting guinea pig experiments: in the one the animal is fed industrial alcohol and has the usual epileptic fit and then dies a horrible death; in the other the guinea pig is fed wine and has nothing worse than a pleasant sleep, before waking up with presumably only a mild hangover… Absinthe is singled out for special opprobrium on the reverse side: L’Absinthe est un poison plus redoutable que la morphine et la belladone – Absinthe is a more fearsome poison than morphine or deadly nightshade.

The poster was designed by Dr. Galtier-Boissière, curator of the scientific collections at the Musée Pédagogique de l’État, and printed in 1898 by Armand Colin et Cie in Paris.

Below is a schoolboy’s 1907 dictation book with an extract on the dangers of absinthe. Amusingly, it starts: “L’absinthe est une poisson extremement dangereuse”.


Anti-absinthe card extolling the virtues of milk (!) as an alternative drink.


Spanish-language version of a French anti-alcohol poster also made for use in schools. Printed by Emile Deyrolle, Paris. This poster warns of the dangers of absinthe-induced epileptic fits: at the top, a roofer falls to his death, while below, the daughter of an alcoholic father suffers from hereditary epilepsy.

A similar French poster, but printed in colour. At the top “La bon eau est la seule boisson indispensable”. Below, “L’Heure Verte” amongst the poor at a working man’s bar, and amongst the bourgeoisie at a Grand Café.