The Police Gazette (1870s)

Police gazette

The Police Gazette: Believed to "corrupt the morals of youth," this and other crime publications were banned by anti-vice societies in the late 1800s.

The Police Gazette was a newspaper founded in 1845, reaching its greatest popularity in the late 19th and early 20th century. Ostensibly a record of information for the police, it was actually a tabloid-like publication containing lurid accounts of crime, sex scandals, corruption, sporting events, and show business. It was particularly known for having graphic illustrations and pictures of scantily-clad women.

Nineteenth-century vice societies believed that such depictions of crime and sex were harmful to children. In 1879, the New England Watch and Ward Society started a campaign against crime books and "degrading" magazines like the Police Gazette, and managed to get the Massachusetts legislature to pass a bill that prohibited the sale of publications "manifestly tending to corrupt the morals of youth." In 1883, the Police Gazette also became the first target of a censorship campaign by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which had just started a Department for the Suppression of Impure Literature. The WCTU succeeded in having the Police Gazette and other "impure" literature banned in several states. In 1886, the New England Watch and Ward Society had another bill passed that prohibited the sale to minors of books or magazines featuring "criminal news, police reports, or accounts of criminal deeds, or pictures and stories of lust or crime." Moreover, such materials could not even be displayed "within the view of any minor child."

Clements Library copy of The Police Gazette