1921 June 16

Atlantic City Beach Scene Rejected by New York State Film Censors


The recently established New York State Film Censorship Board on this day rejected a beach scene in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The objectionable scene involved Miss Hope Hampton in a one-piece, sealskin swimsuit and, according to the film censorship board, such swimwear was illegal in Atlantic City. Had the film’s scene title not read “Atlantic City,” The New York Times reported, the film board probably would have approved the scene. The film board had previously banned a similar scene in a movie that was titled Dainty Dallas Divers Dare the Deep.

See also a similar censorship incident about swimming and swimsuits in the 1920s: July 28, 1920.

The history of clothing, non-clothing (i.e., nudity), and personal grooming is filled with civil liberties themes. The key issue has always been power and control, as dominant groups have sought to control other groups. The history of women’s swimsuits in the 20th century is the story of a long battle over the control of women’s sexuality. In the 1960s  and 1970s, long hair among whites (see December 21, 1970) and Afros among African-Americans were political statements, and both groups ran into attempts to limit them. Some schools prohibited girls from wearing pants to school (January 8, 1970). T-shirts with slogans, meanwhile, continue to raise First Amendment issues.

Learn more about women’s fashion in the 1920s: Catherine Horwood, Keeping Up Appearances: Fashion and Class Between the Wars (2005)

Learn more:  Leigh Ann Wheeler, Against Obscenity: Reform and the Politics of Womanhood in America, 1873-1935 (2007)

Learn about the history of women’s swimwear: http://www.fashion-era.com/swimwear.htm

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