I'm grateful to Michael McFadden for alerting me to an article in the New York Times (City’s Battle Against Smoking Goes Back Centuries). In particular, this reference to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union caught my eye. When not fighting for Prohibition, this band of puritans spent a great deal of time battling tobacco, as readers of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist will recall.
In 1907, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Manhattan began inspecting library books to eliminate smoking heroes and heroines from modern novels.
A bunch of zealots vandalising artistic work to further an obsessive political agenda? This sounds rather familiar. I suppose 1907 was a bit early to go after smoking in the movies, but their ideological descendants have got that base covered and, as mentioned in a recent post, the latter-day temperance movement will no doubt soon demand that booze be banished from our screens (for the sake of the children, natch).
How strange it is that we have 20/20 vision when it comes to identifying cranks and puritans in earlier times but are so blind to them in the present day.