The Post Office Considered This Magazine Cover Too Racy

Magazine Censored By The Post Office – 1914

What was considered obscene 100 years ago? The publishers of a monthly magazine, The International, devoted to fiction, music, drama and politics, were told the January 1914 issue could not be mailed.

Why? The magazine’s cover.

Here is the cover in question. Is this obscene? Apparently for 1914 the answer is yes.

International Magazine censored cover nudity January 1914

The International January 1914 photo via Harvard Library

The International’s 29-year-old editor George Sylvester Viereck, was informed by Postmaster Edward M. Morgan that the cover picture was “decidedly improper,” and would not be sent through the mail.

Upset by the censorship, Viereck’s response was to try printing a solid block of black ink over the unclothed figure with the words, “Censored by Uncle Sam,” next to it. Even with the additional black ink the outline of the nude could still be seen. The postal authorities did not accept that solution.

Viereck then suggested to cut out with scissors most of the cover retaining only the masthead and part of the yellow sun and printing the words,”Censored by the United States Post Office.” The Post Office response was, if mutilated, the magazine would be charged a higher, first class postage rate of 12 cents.

The only way the Post Office would send the magazine was to have The International submit a new cover. The magazine considered running the existing cover through the presses again and adding clothes to the nude. This was deemed too difficult to do and still might not solve the problem. Grudgingly, Viereck conceded that the old cover would be ripped off and substituted with a new, less offensive cover.

Searching the internet, I could not find a photograph of the substitute cover if one was ever created. Our example of  the original cover, via Harvard Library, must have been sold over the newsstand.

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