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Purity in Print

Book Censorship in America from the Gilded Age to the Computer Age

Paul S. Boyer

Publication Year: 2002

The first edition of Purity in Print documented book censorship in America from the 1870s to the 1930s, embedding it within the larger social and cultural history of the time. In this second edition, Boyer adds two new chapters carrying his history forward to the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. xi-xiv

Although the fact is probably not of consuming interest to anyone but me, the beginnings of Purity in Print can be traced to the fall of 1961 when, in a graduate seminar at Harvard led by Professor Frank Freidel, I opted to write my research paper on book censorship in Boston. A revision of that seminar paper, appearing...

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Acknowledgments to the First Edition

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pp. xv-xvi

I should like to express my sincere thanks to the persons who kindly granted personal interviews or otherwise answered my queries, including Roger N. Baldwin, Gordon Cairnie, Fred Dicker, Morris Ernst, Charles B. Everitt, Walter Willard (Spud) Johnson, Alfred A. Knopf, Louis Lyons, Charles W. Morton, Allan Nevins, Mary U....

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Acknowledgments to the Second Edition

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pp. xvii-xx

After the publication of the first edition of Purity in Print in 1968, my scholarly interests turned in other directions. Though I continued to work in the general area of American thought and culture, I did not pursue research or publish on book censorship and First Amendment issues as a primary focus. Nevertheless, I was asked from time to time to speak on this topic, review books on censorship...

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Introduction to the First Edition

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pp. xxi-xxix

It seems clear that we in the United States are at the present moment engaged in a major reexamination and reformulation of our attitudes toward the problems of literary freedom and censorship. For years it has been widely assumed that the new freedom of sexual expression in literature was a "good thing"--an encouraging sign of...

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One: The Vice Societies in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 1-22

When Americans of the 1920S grew bored by Mah-Jongg, Lindbergh, or Wall Street, they frequently turned for diversion to the seemingly endless series of book censorship cases which punctuated the decade. D. H. Lawrence, James Branch Cabell, H. L. Mencken, and James Joyce--not to mention...

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Two: The Vice Socieities in the Progressive Era

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pp. 23-52

The surge of enthusiasm for social justice and civic regeneration which swept America in the early years of the twentieth century seemed, at first, a great boon to the vice societies. Their long-standing interest in ridding the cities of moral hazard was fully in tune with the Progressive desire to remedy...

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Three: The First World War

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pp. 53-68

A perceptive observer of the American scene in 1916 might well have predicted that a book-censorship conflict loomed in the future. The identity of purpose between the vice societies and the broader community was weakening. Publishers were showing increasing willingness to adjust their standards to the...

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Four: The First Postwar Clash - 1918-22 [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 69-98

The Armistice did indeed usher in a new era; of that there could be little doubt. Far from bringing a triumphant reaffirmation of the traditional values, however, the postwar period witnessed their final collapse. The pipe dreams of 1917-18 faded rapidly as disillusionment with the high-flown rhetoric...

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Five: The "Clean Books" Crusade

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pp. 99-127

Reeling from a series of hostile court decisions, yet convinced of the existence of great latent support for its suppressive efforts, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice concluded that the obscenity law was at fault and would have to be tightened. This conclusion was confirmed by a particularly...

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Six: The Latter 1920s

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pp. 128-166

It is by now a historical cliche to observe that the 1920s generated more froth than any other ten-year period in American history, and that as the decade rushed to its climax the froth billowed higher than ever. Confident in the knowledge that Calvin Coolidge and then Herbert Hoover wer...

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Seven: "Banned in Boston" [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 167-206

Massachusetts censorship came over on the Mayflower. When Governor William Bradford of Plymouth discovered in 1628 that the renegade Thomas Morton had, with his other misdeeds, "composed sundry rhymes and verses, some tending to lasciviousness" the only solution was to send a military expedition to break up Morton's high-living settlement at...

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Eight: The Onslaught Against Federal Censorship

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pp. 207-243

By 1929, literary censorship was decidedly on the wane all over America. The high tide of the "Clean Books" movement was six years in the past. The drive to liberalize Massachusetts' obscenity law was moving toward success. The vice societies lay in disarray. And the suppression of literature by private...

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Nine: The Thirties

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pp. 244-269

When H. L. Mencken glanced through an autobiographical work by James Branch Cabell in 1934, he was momentarily puzzled by a reference to a censorship case in which Cabell said he had once been involved. Finally Mencken remembered: Jurgen, the cause celebre of 19221 "How much water has gone...

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Ten: The Shifting Rhythms of Censorship from the 1950s to the 1970s

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pp. 270-316

The history of print censorship in America from World War II through the Nixon era presents divergent and seemingly contradictory trends. As we have seen, judicial and public attitudes toward censorship shifted dramatically in the 1920s and 1930s, as profound changes in U.S. society and culture brought a distinctly...

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Eleven: 1980 to Present: Symbolic Crusades, Embattled Libraries, Feminist Interventions, New Technologies

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pp. 317-360

The resurgence of censorship pressures that began in the later 1960s intensified in the 1970s and beyond. But simply to speak of periodic "waves" of censorship, or a "cyclical pattern" of repressive outbursts suggesting a mechanical process like the swing of a pendulum, is, as sociologist Alan Hunt reminds us,...


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pp. 363-441


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pp. 443-466

E-ISBN-13: 9780299175832
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299175849

Publication Year: 2002