One of the important industries of Santa Barbara county is the great seed farm of the W. Atlee Burpee Company, one of the most successful and widely known, as well as one of the oldest, seed companies in this country, having its chief offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Santa Barbara County Farm, which is located on Floradale Avenue, two and a half miles west of Lompoc, is devoted almost entirely to producing flower seeds….

So large is the sweet pea crop that the peas are harvested like wheat. With the exception of the special, late, and early new varitities, they are cut with a reaper and are threshed in a specially constructed thresher. The new varieties are all picked by hand, for every seed of every new variety is valuable, selling six for twenty-five cents and upwards. Since all the new sweet pea varieites put out by this firm are grown on the Lompoc farm, where many of them are originated, the industry gains unusual importance. Altogether the firm grows and markets seeds for two hundred varieties of sweet peas, all of them grown here.

~History of Santa Barbara County, 1927 (pg 137)

 

Zvolanek’s Florists’ and Private Gardeners’ List of Sweet Pea Seed – June 1926 – June 1927

Mr. Zvolanek had many interesting bits of new to relate regarding the seed growing industry in his district, which he says is 160 miles or more north of Los Angeles, and has a cold climate. The area under Sweet Peas in the Lompoc neighborhood is vast, Burpee and other well-known firms having large tracts under cultivation.

When one hears of soil so good and so deep that crops require no manure or fertilizer whatever, and, despite the fact that for six months or so not a wet day hinders work, the root run remains beautifully moist, he begins to understand how it is that the California Seed Growers can own and work such large farms and produce seeds on such a huge scale.

~ Horticulture, v.32 (1920) pg 320 – image 404

 

Santa Maria Valley 

Dining Room – Santa Maria Inn 

Santa Maria Valley completed the year with organizing for a $4,000,000 irrigation system for the purpose of placing under cultivation fruit orchards of 100,000 acres, no given over to grain ands small white-bean growing. The city of Santa Maria is the center of this activitiy. A survey by the State Engineering Department shows that sufficient water can be impounded by building a dam across Sisquoc River, avobe the valley, to place irrigation water on all the rich farmlands of the valley.

The city has had marked growth during the year. Street paving, business-block construction and the building of schools and churches have been a marked feature of the city’s growth. A strong Chamber of Commerce and Santa Maria Valley Business Men’s Association have co-operated in forwarding the plans for civic progress. Bean growers, the grain farmers and stock men have had a prosperous year. In Santa Maria Valley are the towns of Santa Maria, Orcutt, Casmalia, Betteravia, Sisquoc and Guadalupe. Santa Maria city this year completed a water plant doubling its supply for domestic purposes.

Guadalupe has been notable during the year for the large increase of its vegetable-growing activity. Summer and fall lettuce and fall tomatoes have been found to develop to superior size and flavor, and several carloads a day have been shipped to all pars of the country every day of the long harvest season. Cauliflower for the late winter season and spring brings on renewed activities. Land values have doubled in the Guadalupe section during the year.

~ LA Times, January 1, 1925 (article edited for clarity)

In addition to farming, the valley was home to dairy farms, the Rosemary Farms chicken ranch, cattle ranches, oil wells and oil production. Tens of thousands of acres were devoted to growing sugar beets that were processed at the Union Sugar plant in the small town of Betteravia.

By the 1920s, the Santa Maria Valley Railroad was vital to bringing the agricultural gifts produced in the Santa Maria Valley to the nation. A video taken in the valley in 1925 showcases the modern agricultural activities and methods employed by ranchers and farmers at that time.

For a window into the Santa Maria Valley of the 1920s, a video entitled Santa Maria Railroad, is preserved in the public domain on Archive.org.

See the video,  here

 

Santa Barbara County, the State of California, and the United States have benefitted greatly from the contributions of Japanese-Americans who began immigrating well over 150 years ago. Japanese Americans have endured a history of discrimination, exclusion, and violence America has imposed on their community.

The immigration of Japanese citizens to the United States began after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882. Most Chinese came to the United States during California’s Gold Rush, and many stayed on as laborers to build the nation’s railroads. After most of the railroad system had been built, many Chinese became agricultural workers, known as “stoop labor” in California.

As The Act prohibited Chinese immigration for a ten-year period–in addition to other restrictions–Hawaii’s sugar plantations brought  Chinese laborers to Hawaii. Their absence from the mainland left a shortage of agricultural workers in California.

Guadalupe Women's Association - 1926

Guadalupe Women’s Association – 1926

California needed a new laboring class. Japanese immigrated to California in pursuit of education and opportunities that America promised its immigrants. Most were hired to support the state’s expanding agricultural, canning, fishing, or lumber industries. Japanese domestic workers were highly regarded, despite general anti-Asian sentiment. Japantowns were settled up and down the state. In Santa Barbara County, there were three main Japantowns: Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Guadalupe.

Soon, California’s legislators petitioned to limit the rights and freedoms of Japanese Americans. In 1924, the California State Federation of Labor held their annual meeting in Elks’ Hall in Santa Barbara, California. The convention was hosted by Santa Barbara’s Elks’ Club.

The Federation of Labor included hundreds of members who represented thousands of California’s workers employed in various fields such as moving picture operators, letter carriers, milk wagon drivers, mechanics, garment workers, bricklayers, bakery wagon drivers, stenographers, marine firefighters, cooks, hospital stewards, painters, musicians, and many others.

VS McClatchy, newspaperman and owner of the Sacramento Bee, gave an impassioned address to the assemblage regarding the anti-Japanese movement in California (page 20). Mr. McClatchy stated, “Accordingly, the American Federation of Labor, the American Legion, and the National Grange unanimously approved that plan and demanded its adoption by Congress. The California State bodies of the three great organizations named, together with the Native Sons of the Golden West, decided to act in cooperation on this issue.”

Their advocacy, along with a groundswell of publc support against Japanese immigrants, resulted in Congress passin the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924, clearly aimed at limiting not only Japanese from immigrating, but “all Asiatic” people. Legislation also prohibited the sale, lease, or ownership of property.

This dark chapter in American history set the stage for even darker in the future.

Teruko Tani, her Family, and their Farm – 1921

For additional information about Japanese Americans in the 1920s, there are many resources in the public domain. A few are listed below:

While there are those in the United States who advocate for banning certain books and for removing Black history from the curriculum of some US schools, the public domain protects many important works and makes them available – free of charge. Several examples of Black literature from the 1920s are listed below, accessible through repositories such as Project Gutenberg, Library of Congress, Google Books, and the Internet Archive.

The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. DuBois, banned in some schools and US prisons, is made available through Project Gutenberg.

The Library of Congress holds a collection of work by Zora Neal Hurston, including Meet the Mamma: A Musical Play in Three Acts.

Caroling Dusk, An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets, Edited by Countee Cullen, features works by poets Paul Lawrence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Angelina Weld Grimké, Mary Effie Lee Newsome, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes, among many others.

Porgy, a novel by Du Bose Heyward, published in 1925, was adapted for a play of that name in 1927. In 1935, Mr. Heyward worked with George Gershwin to create an operatic version of the story, titled Porgy and Bess.

Black Opals, available through Internet Archive, presents the works of young Black Americans of “unquestioned talents” who had few venues

through which to share their works. The literary journal was associated with the Harlem Renaissance.

Alain Locke is considered by many to be one of the “architects of the Harlem Reniassance.” Educated at Harvard and Oxford Universities, Mr. Locke was the first Black Rhodes Scholar. His book, The New Negro – An Interpretation, published in 1925, include works of fiction, and poetry, prose and essays, contributed by prominent Black Americans.

The book design and illustrations are by Winold Reiss, a German-born American artist and graphic designer who created portraits of America’s people, including Native, Black, Mexican, and European Americans. From the Winold Reiss website:

“Reiss believed that by picturing the honor, beauty, and dignity of all peoples, his art could help break down racial prejudices and testify to what Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called the ‘unity of all creation.’ His wish was to use art to change the world.”

– Jeffrey C. Stewart is a professor of Black Studies at University of California at Santa Barbara and the chair of the Black Studies Department.

 

In the 1920s, the very heart of Santa Barbara County was agricultural, and much of the area remains so today.

An article in the La Habra Star, October 11, 1929, provides an excellent description of the valleys of Santa Barbara County, California, and the ways they were developed by farmers and ranchers one hundred years ago. Much of what is described here remains so today, though the burgeoning rubber plant industry faded with time.

Versatile Valleys

Diversified in its geography, versatile in its crops, varied in its industries, Santa Barbara County is a land of richness, of prosperity, of opportunity….It is a land of wide-open spaces, of rolling brown hills, of sheltered inland valleys, of level table-lands and mesas, of miles of coastal sand dunes.

Almost countless are the crops raised in Santa Barbara County. Here is grown barley, lettuce, dry onions, tomatoes, pea, cauliflower, carrots, alfalfa, beans (a pink and white species, as well as the lima), guayule (a rubber plant), sub-tropical fruits.

Not content with raising these many crops, Santa Barbara County residents devote themselves to sundry industries: dairying, beef-cattle production, the raising of flowers for world-wide distribution.

Because Santa Barbara County  has so many geographical divisions within itself, is so topographically diverse, each inland valley is best suited to the rising of certain agricultural productions, to the development of particular industries. To understand the County as a whole, it might be best to observe its natural divisions, take each section individually….

Santa Ynez Valley – From the City of Santa Barbara, one goes up over the San Marcos Pass, arrives into he Santa Ynez Valley. Rugged, covered with splendid trees, is the upper part of this valley; ranches are on all sides, thousands of acres in size, devoted to beef-cattle production, horse-raising.

Named by a colony of Danish farmers who settled in the Santa Ynez Valley several decades ago is the little central town of Solvang. Almost like a transplanted Danish community is this portion of the valley; its crops, buildings, equipment, herds–are all tidy in the way characteristic of the Dane, neat, thrifty, painstakingly clean.

Lompoc Valley – Dedicated in great measure to flower-raising is this valley, shortly to the north and west of the Santa Ynez. Spring and autumnn here finds gorgeously-had blossoms in abundance on the sloping hills, level meadows. From these fragrant flowers are secured seeds for distribution throughout the world….

Santa Maria Valley – Largest and most productive of all the agricultural districts of Santa Barbara County is the Santa Maria Valley; approached by winding upward through the hills beyond Lompoc Valley.

Guadalupe, at the valley’s mouth, is the packing and shipping center for miles around; three miles it is from the ocean, three miles of a desert local so like the African Sahara in miniature that Hollywood motion picture companies constantly wend their way north bringing screen stars of renown, adding occasional zest to the farming routine.

…Santa Maria Valley has large areas devoted to dahlias, gladiolas, other flowers…alfalfa, truck produce, dairy products.

The tomatoes and lettuce that one eats late in the season are usually from Santa Maria….

Much alfalfa hay remains at home, maintains the dairy cattle. Finest herds: Captain G. Allan Hancock’s Rosemary Farm, the Acquistapace Brothers’ the Knudsen Creamery, the JW Poison Ranch, the Santa Bargia Creamery. Holsteins predominate.

Santa Barbara County may some day rival the South American countries as a rubber-producing region. Now being grown for experimentation is the guayule, a plant which demands little attention, little water, but from which rubber can be extracted. Hundreds of acres near Sisquoc are already plated with guayule…

 

Photo above courtesy Black Gold Library

The California Fish and Game – Conservation of Wild Life Through Education publications provided information about efforts to conserve and protect the incredible variety of wildlife found throughout California.

Santa Barbara County itself has such variety of landscape that it is home to creatures of the seashore, river, mountain, valley, and cities.  There were many forms of wildlife in the 1920s that were endangered. Conservation and protection measures were beginning to be implemented throughout the county in the 1920s, as well as in the Santa Barbara National Forest.

Below is a sampling of articles from the report, years 1921 – 1923. The full report can be found on Google Books, here.

Santa Barbara to Frame Protective Laws – January 1923 – Page 33

This article describes the park that is known today as the Santa Barbara Bird Refuge, on Cabrillo Boulevard.

The city park commissioners of Santa Barbara are making a progressive and commendable move in the direction of a city ordinance which will make of all their city parks wildlife refuges. For several years a pond in one of the city parks near shore has been designated by the commissioners as a refuge for water birds. Owing to the general prohibition of the use of firearms within the city limits, the ducks which flock there have learned to feel themselves so safe that poachers now find it an easy matter to approach them near enough to throw clubs and stones with stunning or fatal effects. There seems to be no statute, city, state, or federal, which makes this a legal offense during the open season on waterfowl….

The establishment of such refuges in the heart of a city affords pleasure to the numerous park visitors, has great educational value, fosters the love and appreciation of birds, and ultimately serves the interests of true sportsmen.

Large Annual Kill of Deer in the Santa Barbara National Forest – 1922 – Page 55

Santa Barbara County hunters reported there were 119 deer killed during deer season.

There was a total of 978 reported last year [statewide], which would tend to indicate that hunting was not being carried on as formerly, or else that deer are becoming scarcer. However, from our observations, the woods were full of hunters…deer are just about holding their own against the hunters and lions, with a probably increase in some localities.

-Thomas Sloan, Santa Barbara, California

New Game Refuge Proposed for Santa Barbara National Forest – 1922 – Page 55

A game refuge is recommended in the Santa Ynez district for a double purpose, namely:

First to provide an area into which a number of people go and in which hunting is forbidden, and also into which the game drift from the higher areas. It is felt that a game sanctuary is needed to better protect and perpetrate, especially the deer that come down for water into the region covered by the proposed refuge.

Second, within the area covered by the boundaries of the proposed game refuge is what is known as Gibralter Dam, in the Santa Ynez River, which impounds a large body of water with a surface of about 250 acres and from which the city of Santa Barbara derives its water supply, and it is very much desired by the city of Santa Barbara that everything possible be done to protect the domestic water supply from possible sources of contamination.

– Thomas W Sloan, Santa Barbara, California

Violations of Pigeon Law Numerous – January 1922 – page 57

Wild pigeons were not popular with Santa Barbara County farmers and ranchers in the 1920s. Hog farmers claimed band-tailed pigeons ate acorns which were the prime source of hog feed locally. Santa Barbara County Deputy HJ Abels of Santa Maria, sent a report to the US Department of Agriculture listing offenders who committed various offenses against the pigeons, as outlined in Fish and Game Law Section 626 by “hunting, pursuing, taking, killing, detraining, and having possession of wild pigeons.”

Among the offenders who were cited and fined:

  • GW Fryman, Whittier, Cal.
  • RN Hobbs, Lompoc, Cal.
  • B Davis, Los Olivos, Cal.
  • AR Wurz, Los Alamos, Cal.

Facts of Current Interest – Mountain Lions – Santa Barbara County – January 1922 – Page 49

That the mountain lion is still found in numbers in certain places in California is evidenced by the fact that JG Moore of Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County, recently applied for bounty on eleven lions taken between October 9 and November 26, 1921, in the Santa Barbara National Forest. The bounty will total $300.

Few Antelope Left in Southern California – January 1922 – Page 191

Antelope may still be found along the foothills of the Tehachapi Range and in the Antelope Valley on the Santa Barbara Forest where there are at least 10.

Notes on the Sea Lions – Edward Starks – January 1921 – Page 250

Mr. Starks’ article describes in detail the role that the Santa Barbara Channel Islands play as home and rookeries for thousands of California sea lions on the western coast of the United States. See page 250 in the January 1921 volume for full article.

 

Santa Barbara County Libraries – A History of Providing Connection and Resources

Santa Barbara County established the first Santa Barbara Free Public Library in 1882. The county’s first librarian, Mrs. Frances Burns Linn, established the first County Branch Library System in California. In the early 1900s, the Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded a total of 121 grants throughout California to help establish and improve libraries. Three Santa Barbara County cities–Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Lompoc–were grant recipients.

By 1920, Santa Barbara County had a total of 125 branches throughout the area, bringing books to every town, city, and small settlement, as listed here: Branches of Santa Barbara County Libraries – 1920.

The document also includes entries about the Santa Barbara County Law Library, the Santa Barbara County Teachers’ Library, and libraries located at local schools.

The rural, agricultural nature of the county in the 1920s necessitated that, on occasion, books be delivered to the more remote locations by librarians who traveled on horseback. It was not unusual for patrons, as well, to travel to their closest branch of the library on hoof, as depicted in the photos above. The Ship Library, pictured above, was sited in Mission Canyon. While many of the locations listed in the News Notes of California Libraries for Santa Barbara County have disappeared through the years, the county’s libraries continue to evolve, providing information, events, and services that meet the needs of an ever-changing world.

Edson Smith Photograph Collection – Santa Barbara County History

http://www.luna.blackgold.org/luna/servlet/blackgold~9~9

The Edson Smith Photograph collection is hosted locally by the Santa Barbara Public Library. The collection contains over 3100 early images of Santa Barbara County dating from the 1870s-1950s, many of which were collected by Santa Barbara native, and long-time resident, Edson A. Smith (1877-1947). The photographs capture historic buildings, adobes, houses, views of State Street, cultural landmarks, local dignitaries, and many events including early Fiesta parades, the arrival of the first Southern Pacific train in Santa Barbara in 1887, and the Santa Barbara Earthquake on June 29, 1925. Funding for the Edson Smith Digitization Project generously provided by John C. Woodward.

Jace Turner, MLS, City of Santa Barbara Library, provided me with a excellent article about this very special collection:

Santa Barbara Independent Article

Seeing Santa Barbara’s Past with New Eyes: Santa Barbara Public Library Digitizes More than 2,500 Historic Images

https://www.independent.com/2018/11/15/seeing-santa-barbaras-past-new-eyes/

Black Gold Cooperative Library Historical Photographs

Photographs from this collection are also included on the City of Santa Barbara Library website. Please visit the City of Santa Barbara Library’s website – https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/gov/depts/lib/collections/local_history_resources.asp – to see all the online historical information related to Santa Barbara County – and beyond.

Growth of California Roads and Highways in the 1920s

After the war, many Americans purchased their first cars. By the early 1920s, more than 15 million of Ford’s Model Ts were sold in the United States. That dependable, affordable model of automobile put more people on the nation’s roads than ever before. Many were headed to The Land of Sunshine.

The Model T was not the only option. The Automobile Trade Journal provided a wealth of information about all makes of cars, including Chalmers, Studebakers, Haynes, Jewitts, and Kissels. Various models–roadsters, speedsters, sedans, coupes, phaetons, broughams, touring cars and others–gave automobile owners many options. 

The country – along with individual states, counties, and cities, struggled to meet the growing need for paved highways to accommodate travelers. In 1923, a two-cent-per-gallon of gas helped fund the enormous undertaking. In 1925, The United States Highway System helped to identify and standardize interstate roads. CalTrans states, “The most important change created by the act included the provision that state governments, rather than for-profit private road clubs, administer the system.” 

Today, California has 400,000 total lane miles throughout the state. This was not accomplished easily or quickly. 

Some construction equipment was operated by steam power – such as generators, steam shovels, steam rollers, and even steam tractors. Building and maintaining California’s roads has always been vitally important, labor-intensive, and dangerous work.

California Highways and Public Works

The California Department of Highways and Public Works magazine includes numerous stories about roads and highways built in Santa Barbara County in the 1920s. There is a good article about the construction of the road known as Ortega Hill (image above), information about the coastal highway between Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, as well roads built in Santa Maria, Cuyama, and other locations in the area. By 1923, The California Highway Commission became its own entity.

Caterpillars

The Caterpillar tractor and other heavy duty equipment was vitally important to create roadways where there were none. The film, Industrial Uses of Caterpillar Tractors, offers a glimpse into the making of America’s roads, as well as other applications for earth movers, graders, rollers, and other modern equipment the country had come to rely upon.

Maintenance of Roads

A film from the late 1920s entitled Maintenance of Roads, was created by the US Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Public Roads. The hands-on method for maintaining roads is clearly a slow and labor-intensive endeavor in the 1920s. 

Old Spanish Days – Fiesta

Santa Barbara County will celebrate Old Spanish Days from August 3 – 7, 2022. The four-day event returns after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. The City of Santa Barbara welcomes tens of thousands of visitors who come for the parades, the rodeo, the food, dancing, and music.

A history of Old Spanish Days is offered by Erin Graffy de Garcia, local historian, in an article published by Noozhawk in 2017. Ms. Graffy de Garcia advises that the celebration celebrates the “Rancho period” of Santa Barbara County’s history.

Ms. Graffy de Garcia writes, “‘Our Fiesta includes the patronage of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, and the participation of and presentations by the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation. This is what is meant by ‘unity through community.'”

The Fiesta tradition began in 1924. In June of 1925, a devastating earthquake wrecked much of downtown Santa Barbara, including the old courthouse. While citizens considered canceling the event scheduled for August of that year, a decision was made to go on with the celebration. They did so with much success.

Old Spanish Days and The Santa Barbara County Courthouse

In August of 1929, the current Santa Barbara County Courthouse was completed. The iconic jewel was dedicated in a public event during Old Spanish Days in 1929.

From the Calexico Chronicle, August 2, 1929:

Opening with the dedication of the new $1,500,000 Spanish type courthouse on the afternoon of August 14…Santa Barbara will celebrate again for four days its old Spanish Days Fiesta with free dances and public attractions.

Governor CC Young and state officers of Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West will attend the dedication and remain for the Old Spanish Days. Will Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford and a host of other movie stars attend the fiesta every year informally.

Within the next few days, practically all of the citizens here will don Spanish costumes. More than 1000 characters, Indians, ’49ers, Fremont’s soldiers, pirates, and Spanish vaqueros will be seen in the historical parade on Thursday, August 15.

Blooded horses from famous ranchos will appear in the parade.

Two of the Southern Pacific’s oldest locomotives will be used in the re-enactment of the arrival of the first train in Santa Barbara. Several hundred characters will take part in the pageant Saturday afternoon.

On Friday afternoon, the Ruiz-Botello pageant will be given in the patio of the new courthouse. This pageant is given by two of the oldest Spanish families in California. There will be singing and dancing and general merry-making.

On Thursday and Saturday nights, the pageant, Romantic California, in which 300 characters take part will be given.

Old Spanish Days – 1925

The magazine, California Southland, published an article entitled, Old Spanish Days in Flower in Santa Barbara, While the article does not refer to the rancho days that Ms. Graffey de Garcia describes as the impetus for the celebration, the article cites “…the sweet romance of Spain.”

“To no other community the West has it been vouchsafed to retain traditions, memories, customs and delightful conventions of the early Spanish days in the sense that it has been given Santa Barbara, and she has received and held the trust sacredly.”

The photos of that long ago Fiesta are lovely.

Censorship in the 1920s

The 1920s was the first time American youth had a culture of their own. Prior to WWI, there was little interaction with the larger world, especially in a mostly-rural nation. Culture was regional and consistent. However, by the 1920s, the United States integrated technology perfected during the war, like cars, radios, photography, motion pictures, and advances in all types of communication.

The war also moved Americans around as never before, and they returned home with an expanded view of their world. The conflict introduced millions of Americans to the diversity of other cultures, and the realization that their own lives were increasingly affected by global influences.

Young people, especially those who experienced, first hand, the realities of war, embraced fatalism tempered with abandon. The bedrock of society was often perceived as a sham benefitting few, controlling the masses.

Rebellion was reflected in music, literature, and films. The youth of America veered into unknown territory, freed from outdated ideas and their own previous naïveté. The youth culture emerged. Fashion ditched stuffy constraints; silhouettes were looser and more freeing, especially for women. Chaperones were passé; those of the old school saw modern dating as dangerous, and cars as  “rolling bedrooms.” Films splashed sexy scenes onto the big screen; actors became influencers and stars with millions of fans hanging on their every move. Libraries and bookstores offered modern literature with fresh ideas that spoke to a generation demanding civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and especially the right to free speech.

After the Civil War, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was banned in the United States, as it was pro-abolishionist; it threatened the status quo by rousing widespread debate. This spawned an era of censorship intended to control access to materials and ideas in conflict with those in p0wer.

By the 1920s, special interest groups sought to ban books and movies that offended their base. In 1922, The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, later known as Motion Picture Association of America, was formed with Former Postmaster General William H Hays as its leader. That Marvel – The Movie, a book published in 1923, included an introduction by Hays. The author (and Hays) cite the need to protect Americans from themselves by censorship of radical thoughts and ideas that were not in keeping with prevailing Protestantism and the ruling male hierarchy.

In 1923, The American Civil Liberties Union published a pamphlet, Civil Liberty,  their statement on an individual’s rights in the United States of America. Publications such as Bibliography on Censorship and Propaganda, targeted at youth, described how censorship and propaganda were effective tools of social control.

In 1925, the Scopes Trial polarized American society.

Booksellers and Book Bans

Booksellers and many librarians defied acts of censorship and helped to galvanize readers locally, in many locations throughout the United States. They were important advocates in the fight for intellectual freedom and freedom of speech. Hoping to avoid actions like those taken by the City of Boston, a city that became famous for the number of classic literary works they banned, including those by Upton Sinclair, HG Wells, John Dos Passos, Bertrand Russell, and others.

This year, during the week of September 18 – 24, 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) has asked readers to support Banned Books Week. This annual event celebrates the freedom to read, an important freedom especially in this era of increasing censorship.

The Washington Post published an article by Angela Haupt (2022 06 09), titled, The Rise in Book Bans, Explained. She cites Jonathan Friedman, Director of Free Expression and education at PEN America, who said current efforts to ban books from schools and libraries is “unprecedented in its scale, and in the proliferation of organized groups” who want to remove entire lists of books from public access. PEN reported there were 1586 instances of books being banned in a nine month period through March 2022. (See the list of books on Fire.org.)

To learn more, visit Unite Against Book Bans.

Advocates for Intellectual Liberty in the 1920s – And Today

In 1923, the American Civil Liberties Union published a pamphlet stating that “all though on matters of public concern should be freely expressed without interference.” Civil Liberty is a brief publication denouncing repression, stating that it does not protect individuals nor evade conflict, but leads, instead, to violence and division.

Project Gutenberg.org provides a list of books that have been banned from 387BC to 1978AD, and are available online, free.

The University of Pennsylvania has offered readers online access to some of the books that have been banned from schools and libraries.