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Grant Wood's Studio: Birthplace Of American Gothic (2005) - various
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In American Gothic (1930, pictured above), American visual artist Grant Wood shows an image that epitomizes the Puritan ethic and virtues that he believed dignified the Midwestern character.


The Puritans were members of a group of radical Protestants which developed in England after the Reformation. Today, the word puritan is now applied unevenly to a number of Protestant churches from the late sixteenth century to the early eighteenth century. However, Puritans did not, by and large, use the term for themselves, and the word was always a descriptor of a type of religious innovation, rather than a particular church. The closest analogy in the present day to the meaning of "Puritan" in the 17th century would be "fundamentalist": Puritanism was a movement rather than a denomination.

That said, the single theological movement most consistently self-described by the term "Puritan" was Calvinist and became the Presbyterian Church. The term was used by the group itself mainly in the sixteenth century. By the middle of the seventeenth century the group had become so divided that "Puritan" was most often used by opponents and detractors of the group, rather than by the practitioners themselves. The practitioners knew themselves as members of particular churches or movements, and not by the simple and nebulous term "Puritan." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puritan [Oct 2004]

"Banned in Boston"

"Banned in Boston" was a phrase employed from the late 19th century through Prohibition to describe a literary work, motion picture, or play prohibited from distribution or exhibition in Boston, Massachusetts. During this period, Boston officials had wide authority to ban works featuring "objectionable" content, and often banned works with sexual or foul language.

Boston was founded by Puritans in the early 17th century. Puritans held highly negative views regarding public exhibitions and sex. Boston's second major wave of immigrants, Irish Roman Catholics, also held conservative moral beliefs, particularly regarding sex.

In the late 19th century, American 'moral crusader' Anthony Comstock began a campaign to suppress "vice." He found widespread support in Boston, particularly among socially prominent and influential officials. Comstock was also known as the proponent of the Comstock Law, which prevented "obscene" materials from being delivered by the U.S. mail. This law deemed the King James Version of the Bible unmailable.

Following Comstock's lead, Boston's city officials took it upon themselves to ban anything that they found to be salacious, inappropriate, or offensive. Theatrical shows were run out of town, books were confiscated, and motion pictures were prevented from being shown; sometimes movies were stopped mid-showing, after an official had "seen enough".

This movement had several consequences. One was that Boston, a cultural center since its founding, was perceived as less sophisticated than many cities without stringent censorship practices. Another was that the phrase "banned in Boston" became associated, in the popular mind, with something lurid, sexy, and naughty. Commercial distributors were often pleased when their works were banned in Boston—it gave them more appeal elsewhere. Some falsely claimed that their works were banned in Boston to promote them.

The Supreme Court decisions during the 1950s and 1960s, in the era of Earl Warren, limited and eventually stopped municipalites' ability to regulate the content of literature, plays, and movies. Only works "without any redeeming social value" were eligible for banishment; most works were given "the benefit of the doubt." The ability of Boston, or any other municipality, to ban controversial content came to an end.

By the early 1970s Boston developed a full-fledged "adult entertainment" district, the "Combat zone." It featured many entertainments that would have resulted in fines or prison time only a quarter of century earlier. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banned_in_Boston [Aug 2006]

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