James White, in an editorial in the Review and Herald, wrote an interesting account of their return to Battle Creek. He noted “a very praise-worthy movement in progress among the better portion of the citizens of Battle Creek upon the subject of temperance.”
This movement included 600 members of the Battle Creek Reform Club and 260 members of the local chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). On June 28, 1877, the leaders of the WCTU organized a temperance rally to compete against Barnum & Bailey’s circus. These circuses were well-known not only for their frivolity, but also for their consumption of alcoholic beverages.
“On the occasion of the visit of Barnum’s great show to this city,” wrote James White, “the ladies of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of this city struck a telling blow for temperance and reform.” He described an immense temperance restaurant to avoid eating at the “saloons and groggeries where they would be exposed to temptation.” They had a “mammoth tent” from the Michigan Conference for campmeeting purposes that could hold 5,000 people.
Dr. J. H. Kellogg and the Battle Creek Sanitarium staff provided examples of healthful food. James White wrote that as people tasted the food that it helped to remove prejudice about a vegetarian diet. A meal could be had for 25 cents. In the evening Dr. Kellogg gave a lecture about the importance of temperance from a medical and scientific standpoint. Several lectures were given by various leaders of the Reform Society and WCTU by both Adventist and non-Adventist temperance leaders.
The next night, July 1, 1877, for the keynote address Ellen G. White spoke to an estimated 4,000 people about temperance. Afterward “pledges were again circulated” and 85 more people pledged to live free of alcohol.
“A deep impression is made upon this community, and Mr. Barnum’s big show seems quite forgotten.” Apparently, in Battle Creek, if you needed someone to compete against the circus, the person to invite was Ellen G. White