Despite our liberal reputation today, for years Boston was a bastion of official censorship. Authors and playwrights whose works were considered obscene had to create a watered-down “Boston version.” The Watch and Ward Society decided what art, theater, and literature was permissible, and what would be Banned in Boston!
- Records of the Watch and Ward Society
- The header photo is from this Globe article, showing Mencken on Boston Common, ready to sell his “obscene” magazine.
- Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society’s Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil
- Primers for Prudery: Sexual Advice to Victorian America
- Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, Third Edition
This Week in Boston History
- August 7, 1982: Sox slugger Jim Rice rushes into the stands to rescue an injured child. We sampled liberally from this ESPN interview.
- August 8, 1954: The Globe announces the coming of the elevated Central Artery. Read the crazy 1948 traffic planning document that laid the groundwork.
- August 9, 1790: The Columbia arrives in Boston Harbor, having completed the first American circumnavigation of the globe.
- August 10, 1863: Paul Revere’s grandson, Joseph Warren Revere, is court martialed and dismissed from the Union army.
- August 11, 1834: A Yankee mob riots and burns down the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown. Listen to Episode 11 for more details.
- August 12, 1824: Boston imposes a quarantine on vessels arriving from south or west of Savannah.
- August 13, 1779: The Massachusetts expedition against the British on the Penobscot Bay falls apart, leading to the court martial of Paul Revere. Listen to Episode 25 for a detailed account.
One update from last week: Listener Michael John Süch recommends the book Fire in the Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy and Its Aftermath for further reading on the fire.
*We’re aware of the irony of censoring the word “bitch” in an episode devoted to Boston’s history of censorship. We’re working hard to avoid the dreaded iTunes “explicit” label.