Black Valley Railroad

Black Valley Railroad

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This hand-colored allegorical print depicts the course of destruction through drinking in a series of symbols. It was designed to impress the dangers of drinking alchohol. A train labeled "Alcohol" is stopped at "Drunkard's Curve Station." It has left a tranquil valley and is heading toward doom in a land of evil serpents (as in Eden), skeletons, a vampire bat, and what appears to be a dangerous route to destruction, with fictional station names like "Horrorland," "Maniacville", "Prisonton" and “Woeland." The train runs on grain alcohol with the piston working in a decanter. Numerous travelers who can no longer pay the fare are lying abandoned, sick or passed out along the side of the tracks, while others appear to be looking for ways to escape. Station names bear a cautionary tale of scriptural citations along the left and right borders and below the image is a considerable amount of interpretive text.
It was issued by the Massachusetts Temperance Alliance and published by Reverend Steadman Wright Hanks in his book The Crystal River Turned Upon the Black Valley Railroad and Black Valley Country -- A Temperance Allegory (also known as The Black Valley: The Railroad and the Country). Hanks called the print "probably the most successful temperance lecture in the country." Stedman Wright Hanks (1811-1889) was a Congregational minister in Lowell, Massachusetts, as well as an author, artist, and fervent supporter of both the temperance and anti-slavery movements. Hanks spoke to audiences around the United States about the evils of overindulging in alcohol. In addition to his book about the Black Valley Railroad, his published works included Sailor Boys, or, Light on the Seaand Mutineers of the "Bounty and compiled a temperance song book and served as a representative in the Massachusetts General Court. He is also noted for performing the sermon commemorating John Quincy Adams deathat the St. John Street Congregational Church.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Hanks, S. W.
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
image: 9 5/8 in x 12 5/8 in; 24.4475 cm x 32.0675 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Architecture, Industrial Buildings
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Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
Temperance Movement
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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