1927 March 13

NYC Mayor Jimmy Walker Promises “No Censorship” of Theaters


New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, a famously colorful political figure, on this day promised that there “will never be censorship of the stage” in the city. As he continued to talk, however, he waffled on the issue, explaining that “there is a time when entertainment becomes an orgy and a stench to the nostrils.” At that point, he said that what is needed is “a shrill blast from the police whistle.” He did not bother to explain the contradiction in his remarks. The issue of censorship of the theater, including both vaudeville shows and serious theater, had been roiling New York City for decades, without clear resolution. And in that context, his first statement in opposition to a censor — meaning someone with official power — stood out as a strong endorsement of freedom of expression.

Mayor Walker is perhaps most famous for his statement, in opposition to a state censorship law, that “I have never yet heard of a girl being ruined by a book” (although the exact date of that statement is unclear).

Walker also opposed politics in the NYC schools on December 19, 1925 and called for tolerance in the face of anti-Catholic attacks on Democratic Party candidate for president Al Smith on October 6, 1928.

Learn more about Jimmy “Jim Dandy” Walker: http://www.dandyism.net/2007/10/09/jim-dandy/

Learn more about Jimmy Walker, Herbert Mitgang, Once Upon a Time in New Yor : Jimmy Walker, Franklin Roosevelt, and the Last Great Battle of the Jazz Age (2000)

Read: John H. Houchin, Censorship of the American Theater in the Twentieth Century (2003)

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