Neil Miller played to a packed house at the Brookline Booksmith last night, introducing his new book, Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society’s Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil.
In the book, Miller relates the scintillating story of how a powerful band of Brahmin moral crusaders helped make Boston the most straitlaced city in America, forever linked with the infamous catchphrase "Banned in Boston." You can read a sample chapter on Scribd.
In their heyday, the Watch and Ward operated from the lofty heights of Beacon Hill, in their headquarters at 41 Mt. Vernon St. This address is very familiar to those of us here at Beacon Press...
... because it's where we work!
Given Beacon's great commitment to publishing "dangerous" work, and our numerous books examining the history and importance of free speech (From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act, Free for All, Worst Instincts, to name a few), it's interesting to think about the meetings held here by the city's moral guardians. The Watch and Ward, in their efforts to keep scintillating material out of the hands of readers, sent out secret orders from this address banning countless works, including modern classics by Hemingway, Faulkner, and Sinclair Lewis, and went to war with publishing and literary giants such as Alfred A. Knopf and The Atlantic Monthly (who, in another ironic twist, also once had offices at 41 Mt. Vernon).
In this video, Neil Miller explains another surprising connection to the Watch and Ward.