Censorship in Ames

Ames Experiments with Censorship in 1919

Ames Daily Tribune and Evening Times, October 7, 1919

...It was somewhat of a rocky night for the picture shows and especially vaudeville, for, in the estimation of the censors these were the naughty things who had brot discredit upon the picture show business when they had paraded the stage and had come so near to falling down on the bald pates of the first row.  It was one of those times when the censors felt the "Oh, Boy!" sort of feeling and the die of sin was being cast over the entire crowd.

The board, however, felt there was nothing they could do but sit and take it.  The council and censors have been getting along the best they could, and now it has been found the work was in vain and they will have to pass thru the grief once more and pass a new ordinance that will have some power behind it.   View the entire article in a new browser window.

Ames Daily Tribune and Evening Times, October 8, 1919

MAKE PROTEST AGAINST SHOWS EXHIBITED HERE - Resolutions protesting against the staging of exhibitions in Ames which have "outraged the sense of decency in this community" and requesting the revocation of the Twin Star Theatre's license was adopted last night at a meeting called by the church federation of Ames and held in the parlors of the First Congregational church.  At this meeting were representatives of the Council of the Federation of Churches in Ames, the Religious Workers Association at the college, together with other citizens and representatives from the Ames schools, the college faculty, the Women's Club, the Parent-Teachers Association, the Y.M.C.A., the W.C.T.U., Boy Scouts and business interests.

Recent presentations in Ames were discussed in a thoro manner with the idea in mind of attaining results calculated to be to the best interests of the citizenship at large.  It was brot out that a condition seems to prevail more or less generally over the state, as well as in Ames, with regard to motion pictures and vaudeville that needs some doctoring -- doctoring which ultimately would result it was believed, to the mutual interest and advantage of both the patron and the show man.

The following resolution was adopted and expresses the sentiment of those who were at the conference last night, representing the several organizations mentioned, which organizations are representative of a large proportion of the residents of Ames:

The Resolution

   Whereas: during the past few weeks certain exhibitions have taken place in the Twin Star Theatre that have in our opinion outraged the sense of decency of this community:
   Therefore, be it resolved: That this body of men and women, being the Council of the Federation of Churches of Ames, the Religious Workers Association of Iowa State College and other interested citizens including representatives from the Public Schools of Ames, the Faculty of Iowa State College, The Ames Woman's Club, The Faculty Woman's Club, the Parent-Teachers Association, the Y.M.C.A., The Woman's Christian Temperance Union, The Boy Scouts, and prominent business men, do hereby most forcibly protest against all such exhibitions in our community and request the revocation of the license of the above mentioned theatre.

By the Chairman of Committee

Ames Daily Tribune and Evening Times, October 11, 1919


TO MAINTAIN A STRINGENT WATCH - As the councilmen who had been in private session emerged from the reception room at 8:45 last night, City Attorney Luke went to the chair of the city clerk and presented him with an ordinance, which had been prepared at the order of some members of the council or the mayor.  The ordinance covered that which was to come before the council at a hearing on October 20, as the minutes so show.  When the mayor called the meeting to order he asked the city clerk if there was anything to come before the council.  The clerk advised him there was and proceeded to read the ordinance as prepared by the solicitor and handed to the clerk.

Provisions In Ordinance

The ordinance is divided into nine sections and they carried after a roll had been called.  In calling the roll there was an "aye" on the part of every member of the council present.  The ordinance provides:
1. To create a board of censors and give them certain duties to perform.
2. The board of censors is to consist of five members and they are to serve for one year.
3. When the board consider any show immoral or indecent, they shall so report to the mayor.
4. If the mayor approves the action of the censors said report shall prohibit the show and a copy of the notice will be served.
5. Any person who disobeys the ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and a fine of $100 and costs will be assessed and the license annulled.  In lieu of the payment of the fine and costs the person shall be sent to jail for thirty days.
6. All members of the censors shall be admitted free to any picture show.

The balance of the ordinance pertains to replacing all other ordinances and making the present on a legal one.  The ordinance was passed on second reading and the rules suspended and the ordinance passed to third and final reading, and carried.  It will be in effect after publication.

Ames Tri-Weekly Tribune,  February 21, 1919

TIGHT SKIRTS GET TRIMMING AT A MEETING - Are tight skirts to be under the ban in Ames, or are they not to be?  That is a question that was before the meeting of the W.C.T.U. which met at the home of Mrs. I.N. Dixson yesterday afternoon.  The subject was brot up at the meeting owing to the condition in which a young woman of the town found herself when encased in one of the latest skirts and tried to mount a street car and only did so in showing the greater part of her legs.

Woman's dress has always been a Chinese puzzle.  They have played them to the limit in every way.  This year the style seems to have them collar-less and as low in the neck as possible, and to make up for this material the skirts are made as long as they can be and as tight as the skin on a hog's back.  There are some wonderful creation if you care to notice them as they pass down the street, and men do notice them, in fact, they give a great deal of their attention to them and they comment upon them, and say real naughty things after the woman has gotten beyond earshot.

But the W.C.T.U. feel the skirts should come under the ban in Ames.  They felt there was not the need of the girls showing their legs, or coming near it.  When it is written the skirts may come under the ban.  It might also state they come under observation.  Whether the W.C.T.U. people can reach the stage of that legislator from down in Marion county who went before the legislature a few years ago and presented a bill that the ladies wear their skirts a certain distance from the ground -- and no higher.  That was a fellow named Teeter and he is still sailing under the nickname handed him by the women, that of "Short Skirt Teeter."

There is all earnestness on the part of the W.C.T.U. that the tight skirt be loosened, if even just a trifle.  They will give the subject discussion at a later meeting and thereby will hang the fate of the tight skirt.

Theda Bara, as seen in the 1917 Hollywood silent film Cleopatra

Ames Tri-Weekly Tribune,  February 26, 1919

CENSORS DEMAND BARE LEGS BARRED AT PICTURE SHOWS - The Ames board of censors threw out their signal last evening, when they held a special meeting at which time they unanimously adopted a special resolution to present to the city council, and in which bare legs are to be under the ban in Ames picture shows.

The occasion seems to have arisen over the appearance of Theda Bara, in all her snake-like bareness.  She came with her scant wardrobe to the Princess recently and appeared in Cleopatra.  Those who saw the picture felt that Theda had disrobed just about as near as a woman could disrobe, in fact she had on but one garment and spent most of her time lying on a couch.  These people carried the word to the board of censors that the picture was nasty to the last degree, and while Theda wanted to make a spectacle of herself it was not good for the morals of the young people of the city.

There is to be another picture of Theda come to the city, is the word given out, and to prevent any more exhibition of the woman and in the fear that she may divest herself of the one garment, objection was made on the part of a lot of people to the board.

It is stated a resolution was adopted last evening that will be presented to the members of the council and they will be asked to prohibit the showing of any more of Theda's person in the city.  The board of censors was appointed by Mayor Graves and the complaint was made direct to them.  Then followed their meeting and their placing the ban of naked and naughty Theda.

Ames Theater