1921 March 5

Will Hays Becomes Postmaster General; Ends Some, But Not All, Post Office Censorship


Appointed Postmaster General by President Warren G. Harding, Will Hays ended most of the political censorship of the mails that had occurred in the administration of President Woodrow Wilson during World War I. (See the important case in which the U.S. Post Office banned The Masses from the mails, July 24, 1917.) Hays did not, however, end the censorship of sexually related materials, which continued for another 50 years.

Hays left the Post Office in 1922 to become head of Hollywood Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association. In that position, he led a voluntary self-censorship of the movies, which continued long after he left that job. (See his call for the movie industry to “purify itself” on June 4, 1922.) His name has since been immortalized in the term “Hays Code,” to refer to the film censorship code.

Learn more about Post Office censorship: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/pill/peopleevents/e_comstock.html

See a timeline on movie censorship: https://www.aclu.org/files/multimedia/censorshiptimeline.html

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