A is for artichokes: An alphabetical guide to things cities and towns ban for no clear reason

This post has been updated.

The New York Supreme Court ruled  Monday that cities and towns in the Empire State are allowed to ban fracking, the process of extracting oil by pumping liquid into the ground, within their borders, upholding bans that have already been enacted in a few upstate towns. These towns are far from the first to ban things and incite controversy -- although many of their forebears have trended to far more frivolous subjects. Behold, an alphabetical list by subject of the many things cities and towns throughout the world have banned for political, social or entirely inexplicable reasons.


Andrea Hebert of New York, protests the proposed "soda-ban," that New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has suggested, outside City Hall in New York in this file photo from July 9, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Burton

A

Artichokes: In 1935, New York City mayor Fiorella LaGuardia banned the sale, possession and display" of artichokes. But only small ones. It was an offensive move against Ciro Terranova, "the artichoke king." "In the past and until Thursday," one article said, "produce men, it was said, either bought artichokes from him or they didn't have artichokes for sale." The ban lasted three days.

B

Big Macs: Food-to-go used to be banned in Hingham, Massachusetts. McDonalds fought the ban after being denied a permit in the town.

C

Circus animals: Mexico City’s legislative assembly decided to ban circus animals last month. The legislator who introduced the bill told the New York Times, “It isn’t in a bear’s nature to wear roller skates. It isn’t in a tiger’s nature to jump through a flaming ring. It isn’t in an elephant’s nature to sit on a stool. Our thinking has to evolve.” Circus owners saw it as an attack on their profession -- and their relationship with the animals they worked with. “I was born among the tigers and the monkeys," one trapeze artist/clown said.

Claire Danes movies: After actress Claire Danes called Manila a "ghastly and weird city" that "smelled of cockroaches" in 1998, the Philippines city's city council banned all her movies. "She is declared persona non grata" said one council member. "All her films will be banned."

Cream pies: The town of Pueblo, Colorado banned cream pies after eight people ended up in the hospital for food poisoning.

D


Dancing: In 1994, Trumann, Arkansas lifted a 21-year ban on dancing in three of the towns taverns. Dogs: In 1993, the town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware decided to ban dogs on the boardwalk during the summer. Residents had been complaining. In the Daily Whale's "Speakout" section -- which features anonymous complaints from locals who called the newspaper -- one person said, "This town is a squalid dump full of dog manure and cat urine. You all know what I mean. You're up to your knees in it too." Another said that the poop "causes diseases that shouldn't even be mentioned in a family newspaper." "Speakout" regularly featured Rehoboth's pro-dog contingent too, including one person who called the chief police officer in town "Stalinesque." Dying: The mayor of Le Lavandou, a town in France, banned dying in 2000 after the local cemetery filled up and he was denied permission to build a new one. He told the BBC the day after the announcement, "No one has died since then and I hope it stays that way."

E

Emergencies: When Colorado passed a law that prohibited towns from hiring part-time police officers, the town of Hotchkiss responded by banning crime, emergencies, accidents and death on Mondays and Tuesdays -- the town marshal's days off.

F

The F-word: In 2012, the town on Middleborough, Massachusetts made cursing an offense with fines attached. The younger residents in town were not pleased. The Boston Globe reported that "On the downtown drag of Centre Street the following afternoon, some of the youths who hang there, and who are a target of the ordinance, punctuated their feelings with vehement oaths. One thought it was [expletive]. Another thought it was [expletive expletive]. A car drove by and a young woman yelled out the window, “Is it illegal to say [expletive]?’’

Ferrets: In 1999, Mayor Rudy Giuliani banned New Yorkers from owning ferrets. People were angry, and Giuliani was in turn angry at the protesters. He said on his radio show, "This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness. I'm sorry, that's my opinion. You should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist with this excessive concern -- how you are devoting your life to weasels. There are people in this city and in this world that need a lot of help. Something has gone wrong with you.'' The city wasn't alone in not allowing residents to own the pets. When the California state legislature tried to legalize the pet, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. His problem was with the bill's details, not the idea of owning ferrets. “I love ferrets," he said. "I co-starred with a ferret in ‘Kindergarten Cop.’” Mayor Bill DeBlasio's administration has recommended lifting the ban.

G

Garbage disposals: New York City had a longtime ban on garbage disposals. City officials feared that Manhattan's ancient pipes couldn't handle an "onslaught of ground food pulp." In 1997, the ban was lifted.

H

Hitchhiking: Williamsport, Maryland banned hitchhiking in 1934. The Washington Post article on the ordinance noted that "girls are as guilty as boys of the practice, town officials say." Hot dog stands: The town where Winston Churchill is buried banned tourist services in 1965. One Councillor said, "We must prevent people from doing to Sir Winston what Stratford-on-Avon has done to Shakespeare. We know what a nauseating place that is."

I

Indecent books: In 1949, the mayor of Greenbelt, Maryland was upset by the "availability" of "these sexy stories." One book that particularly bothered him "described the activities of the only man in the world after an atom explosion left him in a world of women." So the town council drafted up an ordinance to ban "indecent books."

K

Kissing: In 1969, the "tiny farming town" of Swedensboro, New Jersey banned kissing and hugging "in all public parks, lakes and places." The penalty was a $200 fine.

L

Large sodas: Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban large sodas. It didn't last long, and an appeals court recently upheld a previous decision reversing the ban.

M

Motorized chairs: In 1988, Atlantic City banned golf carts and other motorized chairs after a spate of complaints, speeding tickets and injuries. "The traditional wicker hand-pushed

versions [were] not affected.

N

Noisy things: In the 1960s, the town of Eveaux-les-Bains in France was very anti-noise. They went so far as to partially ban the use of cars. Other measures included banning "the crowing of cocks, the barking of dogs and the braying of donkeys," as well as "assemblies, noises and gatherings and any acts calculated to disturb public tranquility." Not owning a gun: In 2013, Nelson, Georgia mandated that all residents own a gun in the Family Protection Ordinance. Kennesaw, Georgia passes a similar ordinance in 1982. According to one council member, everyone at the meeting where they discussed the measure supported it, except for one " tree-hugger." The owner of nearby restaurant John's Dawg House thought the ordinance "doesn't change nothing because everybody around here already has got a gun. I think it was just a way to get Nelson on TV." Nudists: In 1979, Kismet, a tiny beach town on Fire Island, New York banned nudity on public beaches. It wasn't enforced the following year, and those who complained didn't seem to mind. According to the president of Kismet's community association, the nudes had "been very discreet this season. There are no more nude volleyball games or strolling along the beaches."

P

Pot shops: Prior to the new law legalizing cannabis, many towns in Colorado were banning dispensaries or greenhouses. One potential weed entrepreneur told the Wall Street Journal that it was "un-American."

R

Rats: Calgary, Alberta banned the Norway rat a long time ago, and employs a team of rat inspectors to keep the rodents at bay. The city has a rat line where residents can call to report sightings.

S

Silly String: In 1996, the town of Southington, Connecticut, banned Silly String. One council member said, "It may seem silly, but God forbid something happens." Sleeping on the beach: In 1966, East Hampton banned sleeping on the beach. After one particularly rowdy Fourth of July weekend, beachfront home owners decided they were fed up with the littering, and the town supervisor was likely sick of hearing their complaints.

T

Tin cans on Sunday bridal cars: The town of Newburgh, New York banned "automobiles with tin cans jangling and other traditional and noisy appurtenances on their cars" -- but only on Sundays. TVs in bars: In 1983, Oguniquit, Maine banned TVs from bars. They were also worried about jukeboxes. The Twist: The town of Acushnet, Massachusetts banned the Twist in 1979, because people were improvising in a way the council did not approve of. One selectman said the new dance was "the most vulgar I've seen in my life." He also said that if people can't do the Twist properly, "they shouldn't be allowed to do it at all."

U

Unregistered and inebriated runners: In 2011, San Francisco officials banned drunk runners from competing in the annual "Bay to Breakers" race. Running while nude was still permitted. Unwrapped ukuleles: It was illegal to carry an unwrapped ukulele around the streets of Salt Lake City as of 1976. Upholstered furniture on porches: The town of Wilson, North Carolina banned couches on front porches -- as well as having dead animals, weeds and refrigerators on your lawn. The Associated Press noted that the ban was "what some consider an assault on Southern tradition."

W

"Wild guns, wild weeds and wild dogs:" In 1928, Takoma Park, Maryland, went to war. " According to the Washington Post, the town fathers "have declared war on wild guns, wild dogs and wild weeds. The guns, they say, must no be carried except by persons with permits from the mayors; the dogs must not journey forth without staunch muzzels, and the weeds must be cut to within 4 inches of the ground." Wedding parades: The town of Bellefontaine, Ohio banned wedding parades in 1946. Those who had planned future wedding parades in the town can blame the couple who rode through town on a wagon -- followed by a caravan of over 20 cars. Women in shorts: The Texas town of Monahans banned women in shorts from their streets in 1944. No woman had been arrested for bare legs by the time the national news heard about the ordinance. But some women had been warned about the consequences of their actions. One councilman said, "There's a place for women's shorts and bare midriffs maybe but that place isn't on the streets of Monahans."

Y

Yoo hoos: Brownville, Pennsylvania announced in 1945 that "Any man who whistles, yoo hoos or otherwise tries to attract the attention of a woman he does not know will face a 30-day jail sentence in this town from now on."

Z

Zip codes: The ghost town of Terlingua, Texas -- occupied by two people and several goats -- decided to ban the use of their zip code in 1964, as well as social security numbers and credit card numbers, within town limits. None of the town's officials -- which included a California race car driver and a Detroit magazine writer -- live in Terlingua.

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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