1922 August 3

“Plan to Censor All New Literature”


John Sumner, head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, announced plans on this day for a committee representing publishers and authors that would screen all literary manuscripts to ensure they were not immoral. The Authors League supported this voluntary censorship idea. The leaders were concerned that sexually oriented and other immoral works were bringing the book industry into “disrepute.” It was suggested that the effort would be led by a prominent “proconsul,” such as Will Hays, then the head to the movie industry’s self-censorship effort (see June 4, 1922), or Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was famous for his actions regarding the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal in professional baseball.

The self-censorship idea never came to fruition, however. It resembled the self-censorship adopted by the major Hollywood motion picture producers in the infamous Production Code adopted on June 13, 1934.

Learn more: Paul Boyer, Purity in Print: The Vice-Society Movement and Book Censorship in America (1968)

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