Sentimental Sunday: Blue Laws and the Newfangled Movies

1923 Prohibition on Sunday Movies, in Marion {OH] Daily Star, 17 Apr 1923, Vol. XLVII, No. 122, page 1. Used with kind permission of the Marion Daily Star.
1923 Prohibition on Sunday Movies, in Marion [OH] Daily Star, 17 Apr 1923, Vol. XLVII, No. 122, page 1. Used with kind permission of the Marion Daily Star.

Sunday Blue Laws prohibiting sales of certain items, most notably liquor but also non-necessities, were around for many years, prevalent even into the 1970s. Some cities/states still have them, and lives have to be planned around them, but they do give employees time off to worship (if they worship on a Sunday- not all religions do) and/or be with family.

Transcription of 1923 article above:


Columbus, April 17 — The su-

preme court today again up-

held the constitutionality of the 

state law prohibiting Sunday motion

pictures, when it refused to hear

the appeal of Walter K. Richards

from the decision of the Hancock

county courts, prohibiting him from

operating his motion picture theater

in Findley on Sunday.

It was surprising to see that movie theaters were included in these type of laws. This newspaper article from Marion, Ohio indicates that a court appeal was brought to the State Supreme Court by a theater owner after he lost his case to stay open on Sunday in Findley, Hancock County, Ohio.  The income lost from not being open that one day was probably significant, especially since many persons would be off work on Sundays and have more time to see a movie. Despite the hardship to his business, the Ohio Supreme Court concurred with the opinion of the lower courts, and Walter K. Richards was not allowed even to appeal.

What was shown in a movie theater back then would have been silent films with an organist playing a soundtrack- ‘talkies’ didn’t come around until 1927.

It would be interesting to know if stage productions were allowed on Sundays in Ohio in 1923.

Some of our ancestors lived in Ohio in 1923- wonder how they felt about prohibiting theaters from opening on Sundays? We do know that many members of the Beerbower/Peters family were very religious, so it is likely they applauded the courts for upholding the law and Sunday as a day of rest. Although many of our then-young ancestors were very active in church groups, how likely was it that they would have wanted to go to the movies on a Sunday with their sweetheart or friends? Probably not all of our ancestors were religious enough to consider closing movie theaters on Sunday required by the church, and some likely worked six days a week- they would have liked a bit of entertainment on their day off. Don’t forget that there was no television or cable tv in 1923!


This court case also shows how judicial attitude changes over time as the pendulum swings back and forth. Today, our courts strongly uphold the rights of businesses, especially in cases that affect their bottom line.

So, were these “the good ole days,” or not?? Are you sentimental for a time when family and church were a societal focus, or more sentimental for the Sunday afternoons you may have spent at the movies with family or friends?



Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) 1923 Prohibition on Sunday Movies, in Marion [OH] Daily Star, 17 Apr 1923, Vol. XLVII, No. 122, page 1. Used with kind permission of the Marion Daily Star.


Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images. Click to enlarge images.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright of our blog material.