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Kissing A Crime

According to Boston historian Edwin M. Bacon, in 1699, the Selectmen of Boston made kissing in public a crime. The law was not in effect for very long. Puritanical rules of behavior were incorporated into Massachusetts law, and many of them were still on the books until recently (such as the ban on selling liquor on Sundays). By the late 1800s, these laws became known as Blue Laws. "Blue" was a slang term for strict behavioral rules, or of a person with deep religious or ethical convictions (also see the Blue Blood page).

An early blue law was that against kissing in public. Edward Ward, a London wit who visited Boston in 1699, and whom racy descriptions of it and how its people impressed him, was frequently quoted by early historians and writers about the law. Ward had said with ridicule: "If you kiss a woman in publick though offered as a courteous salutation, if any information is given to the Select members, both shall be whipt or fined."

Another famous quote is that of a ship's captain who had just returned from a long voyage. He happened to meet his wife on the street, and after kissing her, was fined 10 shillings for the offense. He remarked, "What a happiness, thought I, do we enjoy in Old England, that cannot only kiss our own wives, but other men's too, without the danger of such a penalty!"

Edward Ward spoke of the buildings of Boston, "Like their women, neat and handsome." And of the streets in Boston, "Like the hearts of the male inhabitants, are paved with pebbles."

Please note that observing Christmas in Puritan Boston was also a crime.


Kissing Was A Crime In Puritan Boston


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