RAP SHEET - Comic Books And The Law
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This is a great thread. I haven't posted on the boards in a long time, except to buy books, and seeing this makes we want to check in a little more.

 

What do you think turned censors onto comics as a possible source of juvenile delinquency? Was there some increase in crime by teens or young adults in the early fifties that these studies link in a spurious correlation?

 

Or was it just apprehension at the general rise of a more rebellious youth culture in the fifties (rocknroll etc.)?

 

You also see a theme around the same time in pulp fiction with paperbacks like "The Young Punks" about the threat of greaser-styled hoods.

 

I need more cultural context then the documentaries I have seen on the subject. When you say "comics make children into juvenile delinquents" out loud, it doesn't pass the laugh test. It's hard to place myself into the time.

 

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ACLU.jpg

Wow! Never saw it or even knew it existed. Very nice!

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Bought this from a board member a few months ago:

 

Berkeley_doc.jpg

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great thread and cool stuff! i hope you guys don't mind seeing some of these pics again but here's some names & faces of some people involved in controlling the content of comic books. some of these pics have been posted before but i don't think they were all in one thread.

 

frederic wertham testifying before the senate subcommittee in nyc 1954.

senate-subcommittee1954.jpg

 

wertham with a balloon in his likeness. any of these balloons still around? :grin:

Werthamballoon.jpg

 

display of objectionable comics in ny 6-4-54. (left) assemblyman james fitzpatrick (plattsburg ny) chairman of ny state joint legislative committee to study publication of comics.

(right) senator robert hendrickson (new jersey) chairman of the senate juvenile delinquency committee.

nycomicdisplay54.jpg

 

same display from newsreel footage.

ComicsCode.jpg

 

other countries such as canada and england were also concerned about objectionable comic book content.

a comic display at the national union of teachers office on 11-13-54 in london. collect them all now! :D

(left) d vosper, british parliamentary under secretary to the ministry of education & (right) sir hugh lucas tooth, under secretary to the british home office.

london11-13-54.jpg

 

comics on trial in 1951.

comicstrial1951.jpg

 

detroit police commisioner harry toy examines comics in april 1948. toy indicates that they were "loaded with communist teachings, sex and racial discrimination".

he also served on the michigan supreme court and was an attorney general.

harrytoy.jpg

 

senator nat washington of washington state pointing at some comic book panels in march 1955. anyone recognize the source of those panels?

sennatwashington3-55.jpg

 

los angeles councilman ernest debs holding objectionable comics in 1954.

but those are the good books especially the fight against crime 20! :grin:

ernestdebslacouncilman1954.jpg

 

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I am very keen on these neato photos!

More!

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display of objectionable comics in ny 6-4-54. (left) assemblyman james fitzpatrick (plattsburg ny) chairman of ny state joint legislative committee to study publication of comics.

(right) senator robert hendrickson (new jersey) chairman of the senate juvenile delinquency committee.

nycomicdisplay54.jpg

 

Great selection of pics, as usual with a couple I'd not seen before :)

 

Sorry but I couldn't resist ...

114961.jpg.933128844dbeef5e845928f726ebfad3.jpg

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detroit police commisioner harry toy examines comics in april 1948. toy indicates that they were "loaded with communist teachings, sex and racial discrimination".

he also served on the michigan supreme court and was an attorney general.

harrytoy.jpg

 

Ironic that the one book he is holding is "Is This Tomorrow". Did it contain information on communist teachings? Of course it did! It was the first anti-communist book published by a virulent anti-communist catholic organization. The sentiment fit in exactly with the Cold War paranoia of the day.

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these documents and a few different editions of the reports for juvenile delinquency hearings are freely available on univ nebraska library here

check out the other giveaway & regular comics too.

 

comicsjd1954.jpg

colegislativecouncilreport.jpg

restrictionsoncomics.jpg

 

there was criticism of comic book content in the 1940s. this article is from the pittsburgh post gazette 7-26-47.

the police chief is holding prize 65 but i'm not sure about the other book.

is that prize comic full of sex? ???

pittpostgaz7-26-47a.jpgpittpostgaz7-26-47b.jpg

 

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display of objectionable comics in ny 6-4-54. (left) assemblyman james fitzpatrick (plattsburg ny) chairman of ny state joint legislative committee to study publication of comics.

(right) senator robert hendrickson (new jersey) chairman of the senate juvenile delinquency committee.

nycomicdisplay54.jpg

 

Great selection of pics, as usual with a couple I'd not seen before :)

 

Sorry but I couldn't resist ...

 

That's a lot of great reading! :D

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display of objectionable comics in ny 6-4-54. (left) assemblyman james fitzpatrick (plattsburg ny) chairman of ny state joint legislative committee to study publication of comics.

(right) senator robert hendrickson (new jersey) chairman of the senate juvenile delinquency committee.

nycomicdisplay54.jpg

 

Great selection of pics, as usual with a couple I'd not seen before :)

 

Sorry but I couldn't resist ...

 

That is awesome!

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What do you think turned censors onto comics as a possible source of juvenile delinquency? Was there some increase in crime by teens or young adults in the early fifties that these studies link in a spurious correlation?

 

Or was it just apprehension at the general rise of a more rebellious youth culture in the fifties (rocknroll etc.)?

 

I need more cultural context then the documentaries I have seen on the subject. When you say "comics make children into juvenile delinquents" out loud, it doesn't pass the laugh test. It's hard to place myself into the time.

 

Although Sterling North wrote about the "dangers" of comic books in 1940, the push to ban or change the content of comic books really started to swell in 1948. That was the year that Dr. Wertham's anti-comics campaign gained nationwide attention. He wrote an article in Saturday Review of Literature and was widely quoted in another article in Collier's titled, "Horror in the Nursery." From 1948 until the Senate hearings in 1954, anti-comics sentiment grew. Discussions popped up among parent's groups and religious groups. Municipalities like Detroit and Los Angeles discussed banning certain comics. The New York Legislature and the U.S. Senate started investigating, and so on.

 

As for the cultural context, of course there's no easy answer. In my opinion, you're right on both counts: a percieved increase in crime and apprehension about teen culture both contributed to the anti-comics sentiment.

 

After WWII, a lot of things changed. The emergence of "teens" as a market and a social force, the growth in the number of women who worked outside the home, the increasing role mass media played in people's lives, the leisure time available to kids in economic boom years, and the perception (whether real or imagined) that violent crime was on the increase all led to a fertile climate for those social watchdogs who wanted to keep everything as it had been back in the "good old days."

 

There's some excellent reading out there on the subject. You might want to start with David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague and Bradford W. Wright's Comic Book Nation- The Transformation of Youth Culture in America.

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What do you think turned censors onto comics as a possible source of juvenile delinquency? Was there some increase in crime by teens or young adults in the early fifties that these studies link in a spurious correlation?

 

Or was it just apprehension at the general rise of a more rebellious youth culture in the fifties (rocknroll etc.)?

 

I need more cultural context then the documentaries I have seen on the subject. When you say "comics make children into juvenile delinquents" out loud, it doesn't pass the laugh test. It's hard to place myself into the time.

 

Although Sterling North wrote about the "dangers" of comic books in 1940, the push to ban or change the content of comic books really started to swell in 1948. That was the year that Dr. Wertham's anti-comics campaign gained nationwide attention. He wrote an article in Saturday Review of Literature and was widely quoted in another article in Collier's titled, "Horror in the Nursery." From 1948 until the Senate hearings in 1954, anti-comics sentiment grew. Discussions popped up among parent's groups and religious groups. Municipalities like Detroit and Los Angeles discussed banning certain comics. The New York Legislature and the U.S. Senate started investigating, and so on.

 

As for the cultural context, of course there's no easy answer. In my opinion, you're right on both counts: a percieved increase in crime and apprehension about teen culture both contributed to the anti-comics sentiment.

 

After WWII, a lot of things changed. The emergence of "teens" as a market and a social force, the growth in the number of women who worked outside the home, the increasing role mass media played in people's lives, the leisure time available to kids in economic boom years, and the perception (whether real or imagined) that violent crime was on the increase all led to a fertile climate for those social watchdogs who wanted to keep everything as it had been back in the "good old days."

 

There's some excellent reading out there on the subject. You might want to start with David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague and Bradford W. Wright's Comic Book Nation- The Transformation of Youth Culture in America.

 

I'll definitely have to check out the second title. I've read excerpts of the first. Thanks for responding.

 

I wonder if there's any empirical information about whether there was, in fact, a rise in juvenile offenses in the late forties/early fifties. I understand that much of this was attributable to hysteria or fear of cultural change, but usually when censors go after something, they ground it in something concrete even if the connection is tenuous or outright ridiculous (think Marilyn Manson in the wake of Columbine).

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I wonder if there's any empirical information about whether there was, in fact, a rise in juvenile offenses in the late forties/early fifties. I understand that much of this was attributable to hysteria or fear of cultural change, but usually when censors go after something, they ground it in something concrete even if the connection is tenuous or outright ridiculous (think Marilyn Manson in the wake of Columbine).

 

My grandmother used to say, "figures lie and liars figure."

 

Was there evidence that crime was on the rise? Yes. Was there evidence that crime was declining? Yes.

 

The Senate's 1950 report on Juvenile Delinquency is a good place to start when looking for an answer to this question, The report is full of responses that had been solicited from all sorts of public officials around the country. The Senators asked these (very leading) questions of the officials:

1) Has juvenile delinquency increased in the years 1945 to 1950? If you can support this with specific statistics, please do so.

2) To what do you attribute this increase if you have stated there was an increase.

3) Was there an increase in juvenile delinquency after World War I?

4) In recent years have juveniles tended to commit more violent crimes, such as assault, rape, murder, and gang activities?

5) Do you believe that there is any relationship between reading crime comic books and juvenile delinquency?

6) Please specifically give statistics and, if possible, state specific cases of juvenile crime which you believe can be traced to reading crime comic books.

7) Do you believe that juvenile delinquency would decrease if crime comic books were not readily available to children?

 

The letter from the Committee was dated August 8, 1950, and responses were expected by August 22, 1950, so I expect many agencies had to scramble (in the pre-computer era) to obtain data for their responses. Despite the fact that the questions were obviously worded so as to elicit a response of "juvenile crime is increasing, and comic books are the cause," the responses can hardly be tallied as overwhelming evidence of an increased crime rate or of the dangers of comic books.

 

In response to this questionnaire, here are selections from just the first few responses in the report:

From J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, "Arrests of youths have generally leveled off during the postwar period (1945-49) although the incidence of crime among young people is still abnormally high." He does not state what is meant by "abnormally high," and his statistics don't seem to back up this statement. He goes on to cite specific increases and decreases, and then states, "it should be noted that arrests of boys and girls under 21 in 1949 were 3 percent higher than in 1945."

 

Up 3%. Yup, that sounds like an increase to me. However, Hoover does not state that his figures are per capita, and provides a chart that is clearly absolute arrests and not per capita arrests. Looking at census bureau figures for those years (http://www.npg.org/facts/us_historical_pops.htm) it appears to me that the population grew by about 8% from 1945 to 1949. So in reality, this would be a per capita DEcrease in crime.

 

Hoover goes on to state that "The basic cause of the high rate of juvenile crime is the lack of a sense of moral resonsibility among youth."

 

Next we have a letter from A.H. Conner, Acting Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons, "Dispositions of juvenile cases by Federal courts rose steadly beteen the years ending June 30, 1941 and June 30, 1946, but since that date have declined year by year through the fiscal year ending June 30, 1949. An upward trend was noted in the fiscal year 1950 but the significance of this development is not clear." When you look at the chart of supporting evidence, you see 3,411 cases in 1945 versus 1,999 in 1950, so overall it's a significant decrease during the years in question.

 

Harold R. Muntz, Chief Probation Officer, Hamilton County, Ohio indicated an increase in delinquency complaints for 1948 and 1949 (the 1950 data were incomplete). From 1945 to 1949, the number of delinquency complaints went from 3,491 to 3,679, which is an increase. Muntz attempts to provide per capita data, but uses the 1940 census data in all years, making the per capita data rather useless because it doesn't take into account any postwar population increase.

 

From the commissioner of the North Carolina Board of Public Welfare, "There is no indication that juvenile delinquency has increased during the last 5 years."

 

Okay, I'm not going to sum up the entire report. That's just the first few responses the Senators list in the report. Suffice it to say that some evidence pointed to an increase in juvenile crime, some pointed to a decrease, and some was inconclusive.

 

Much of the anti-comics hysteria was driven by emotional reactions to specific events (e.g. man murders his wife after reading Crime Does Not Pay, kid dies after wrapping a towel around his neck and jumps of a building in an attempt to fly like Superman, and so on). Not unlike the later Manson/Columbine episode, people would have emotional reactions to horrible things they read or heard about, and they would want to "do something" to keep the horrible thing from happening again.

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In the Senate report, the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons provides the following cases in which he feels comic books or movies can be cited as inciting crimes.

It's unclear to me why the respondent included a crime blamed on a movie as the last response, since the Senators specifically asked for comic-book-incited crimes:

 

Crimes_By_Comic_Books.jpg

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I wonder if there's any empirical information about whether there was, in fact, a rise in juvenile offenses in the late forties/early fifties. I understand that much of this was attributable to hysteria or fear of cultural change, but usually when censors go after something, they ground it in something concrete even if the connection is tenuous or outright ridiculous (think Marilyn Manson in the wake of Columbine).

 

here's an interesting excerpt from the essay "economic factors in juvenile delinquency" by david milne from the book Juvenile Delinquency (joseph roucek, editor) p 215-6 1970 that gives one plausible explanation for the rise & fall of juvenile delinquency levels in the 40s and 50s.

 

Juvenile delinquency in wartime

 

Based on the recorded experiences of many communities during World War II and thereafter, it seems clear that juvenile delinquency rises considerably in a nation at war. This seems particularly true of the younger age groups, who apparently take advantage of the absence of their elder brothers being in the military service and go on quite a spree. The Uniform Crime Reports of the FBI disclose that during the period from 1940 to 1946 there was a drastic increase in the delinquent activities of the young people under 18 years of age, which more than counterbalanced the decrease in arrests for the age groups between 19 and 22 or 23 occasioned by so many young men being overseas. Thus, in 1945, there were more 17 year-olds arrested than any other single-year age group. Normally, the pattern is for each age group to show an increase over the preceding group up to age 25, when the FBI stops reporting arrests by one-year intervals and groups the arrests into five-year age intervals. Beginning in 1946, a sharp decrease in delinquency was recorded, reaching a low point in 1948, after which the trend turned upward again, and increased quite rapidly in 1950 and 1951 with the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. Since that time both police arrests and juvenile court cases have continued to increase faster than the rate of increase in the juvenile population.

 

It is interesting to note that Great Britain showed the same pattern of juvenile delinquency as that of the United States during World War II, with the same drop after 1946. There was also an upward trend in Great Britain in 1950 and 1951, but thereafter the juvenile delinquency rate turned down instead of continuing to rise as it did in the United States. A possible explanation of this is that Great Britain was experiencing considerable difficultly in reestablishing her economy on a secure footing. There was a long period of wartime "austerity" in Britain even after the cessation of hostilities. This may have been the determining factor in reducing delinquency in the nation during this period, for as noted above, delinquency seems to decrease during periods of depression. In the United States, on the other hand, the increase in delinquency has been in line with the steady advances in prosperity and great business activity.

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Bought this from a board member a few months ago:

 

Berkeley_doc.jpg

Another great piece of history!

 

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What do you think turned censors onto comics as a possible source of juvenile delinquency? Was there some increase in crime by teens or young adults in the early fifties that these studies link in a spurious correlation?

 

Or was it just apprehension at the general rise of a more rebellious youth culture in the fifties (rocknroll etc.)?

 

I need more cultural context then the documentaries I have seen on the subject. When you say "comics make children into juvenile delinquents" out loud, it doesn't pass the laugh test. It's hard to place myself into the time.

 

Although Sterling North wrote about the "dangers" of comic books in 1940, the push to ban or change the content of comic books really started to swell in 1948. That was the year that Dr. Wertham's anti-comics campaign gained nationwide attention. He wrote an article in Saturday Review of Literature and was widely quoted in another article in Collier's titled, "Horror in the Nursery." From 1948 until the Senate hearings in 1954, anti-comics sentiment grew. Discussions popped up among parent's groups and religious groups. Municipalities like Detroit and Los Angeles discussed banning certain comics. The New York Legislature and the U.S. Senate started investigating, and so on.

 

As for the cultural context, of course there's no easy answer. In my opinion, you're right on both counts: a percieved increase in crime and apprehension about teen culture both contributed to the anti-comics sentiment.

 

After WWII, a lot of things changed. The emergence of "teens" as a market and a social force, the growth in the number of women who worked outside the home, the increasing role mass media played in people's lives, the leisure time available to kids in economic boom years, and the perception (whether real or imagined) that violent crime was on the increase all led to a fertile climate for those social watchdogs who wanted to keep everything as it had been back in the "good old days."

 

There's some excellent reading out there on the subject. You might want to start with David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague and Bradford W. Wright's Comic Book Nation- The Transformation of Youth Culture in America.

 

Lots of interesting thought on this thread. Thanks to all for sharing.

 

One thing we tend to overlook is that publishers kept pushing the boundaries of taste and decency.

 

Today, one has to think twice before taking a child into some comic book stores because of the lurid covers. In the 1940s and 1950s, comic books were on display in many more general venues. Concerned parents couldn't avoid the extreme subject matter.

 

While some collectors today cherish Crime Suspenstories #22 and its ilk, who in the 1950s would want their kids to see it on a trip to the grocery store? We can admire their craftsmanship, but those comics had some of the most base and twisted characters and stories in all literature.

 

The greatest cause of the industry's persecution and decimation may have been the lack of restraint by EC and its competitors, rather than any outside force.

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