Blue Laws

From Ohio History Central

Broad St. Methodist Church, Columbus, Ohio.jpg
Digital photograph of a water color painting by Ralph Fanning of the Broad St. Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio. The painting was created between 1940 and 1945 and photographed in 2004. It is part of the fine art

collection of the Ohio History Connection.

Blue laws are laws that prohibit certain types of activities on Sundays. While these laws have existed throughout American history, most people associate them with the late 1800s and the early 1900s, when the Progressives were a powerful group, seeking to reform the United States socially, politically, and economically.

Supporters of blue laws believed that Sundays were to be spent worshipping God. Activities that tended to keep people from attending church had to be prevented. To try and inhibit these activities from occurring, many communities implemented blue laws. One of the most common blue laws prohibited businesses from opening on Sundays. Another blue law made the sale of alcohol on Sundays illegal. Some communities even outlawed professional sports on Sundays, fearing that these sports drew people away from church and prompted people to engage in sinful activities, such as gambling and drinking.

Individual states and communities implemented these laws throughout the late 1800s and the early 1900s. The State of Ohio implemented several blue laws, including one that prohibited alcohol sales on Sundays. Eventually, the Ohio government permitted alcohol sales after 1:00 PM on Sundays, a time when most church services had ended, and in 2000, Ohio Governor Bob Taft signed a law that permitted alcohol sales in sports arenas as early as 11:00 AM on Sundays. One critic of Taft's action commented, "My golly sakes. Before noon? People should be in church on their knees praying then, not drinking," illustrating the continued support of certain blue laws in the twenty-first century.

See Also


  1. Hofstadter, Richard. The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1960.  
  2. Hofstadter, Richard. The Progressive Movement, 1900-1915. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963.  
  3. McGerr, Michael. A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920. New York, NY: Free Press, 2003.