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“In the Interest of the Moral Life of our City”: The Beginning of Motion Picture Censorship in Portland, Oregon

Mary P. Erickson
Film History
Vol. 22, No. 2, This Issue: Movies in America (2010), pp. 148-169
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/fil.2010.22.2.148
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/fil.2010.22.2.148
Page Count: 22
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“In the Interest of the Moral Life of our City”: The Beginning of Motion Picture Censorship in Portland, Oregon
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Abstract

This paper explores how movie censorship developed in Portland, Oregon, and why theater managers and the city struggled so intensely over local censorship of motion pictures. It does so through an analysis of the history of Portland's motion picture censor board in its various iterations in the early 1910s. Primary evidence is derived from a selection of archival documents from the mayoral papers of H.R. Albee, who served the city of Portland from 1913 to 1917, and other documents from the City of Portland archives, including City Council documents and monthly reports. The paper also consults various local newspapers from the same era, as well as compilations of theater, vice, and social hygiene reports from prominent civic and government groups at the time. This examination will serve to illustrate factors that affected the legitimacy and effectiveness of Portland's censor board, which in turn will contribute to a broader understanding of the birth of motion picture censorship within the unique social and political conditions of the 1910s. In addition, a case study of Portland's censor board provides much-needed analysis of censorship processes in area of the country that was, during this period, shedding its identity as a frontier setting and beginning to define itself as an urban center.

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