By Neil Miller
“I are looking to be clever, whether I do dwell in Boston.”—an nameless Bostonian, 1929 In this staggering romp throughout the Puritan urban, Neil Miller relates the scintillating tale of ways a robust band of Brahmin ethical crusaders helped make Boston the main straitlaced urban in the USA, perpetually associated with the notorious catchphrase “Banned in Boston.” Bankrolled by way of society’s higher crust, the hot England Watch and Ward Society acted as a quasi-vigilante police strength and infamous literary censor for over 80 years. frequently going over the heads of neighborhood specialists, it orchestrated the mass censorship of books and performs, raided playing dens and brothels, and applied spies to entrap prostitutes and their buyers. Miller deftly lines the expansion of the Watch and Ward, from its formation in 1878 to its waning days within the Fifties. in the course of its heyday, the society and its imitators banished sleek classics via Hemingway, Faulkner, and Sinclair Lewis and went to struggle with publishing and literary giants corresponding to Alfred A. Knopf and The Atlantic per month. To the chagrin of the Watch and Ward, a few writers rode the nationwide wave of exposure that observed the banning in their books. Upton Sinclair declared staunchly, “I might otherwise be banned in Boston than learn anyplace else simply because while you are banned in Boston, you're learn in every single place else.” Others confronted extinction or attempted to negotiate their means onto bookshelves, like Walt Whitman, who hesitantly got rid of strains from Leaves of Grass lower than the watchful eye of the Watch and Ward. because the nice melancholy spread out, the society shifted its concentration from bookstores to burlesque, effectively shuttering the previous Howard, the city’s mythical theater that attracted consumers from T. S. Eliot to John F. Kennedy. Banned in Boston is a full of life historical past and, regardless of Boston’s “liberal” attractiveness this day, a cautionary story of the risks brought on by ethical crusaders of all stripes.
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Additional resources for Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society's Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil
3 percent were members of the upper classes. It was the “old guard on guard,” as Cleveland Amory put it in his book The Proper Bostonians. Each year, the society would hold large public meetings, with well-known speakers like the Reverend Endicott Peabody, headmaster of the elite Groton School (and later a Watch and Ward vice president), and Julia Ward Howe, composer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”; its annual reports detailed its accomplishments and finances and enumerated the criminal convictions obtained by the society.
I do,” came the reply. Chase offered Mencken a silver half-dollar, and, in a theatrical moment that delighted the throng, the editor took the coin and bit the end of it to make sure that it was genuine. Then he handed over a copy of the magazine. ” commanded Chase, addressing Captain Peterson. The Boston police and the Watch and Ward had had their differences over the years—sometimes the vice organization’s agents had acted as if they were the Boston police—but this time the police were more than happy to do the Watch and Ward’s bidding.
Chase (no relation to later secretary J. Frank Chase) took the Watch and Ward position at age fifty-nine and served until he was well into his eighties. The society’s president for twenty-six years spanning the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the Reverend Frederick Baylies Allen, a Congregationalist minister who converted to the Episcopal church and became the assistant minister at Boston’s prestigious Trinity Church in 1879, in part because the Trinity elders were impressed by his organizational work at the Watch and Ward.