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The Kansas Government Information (KGI) Online Library
Kansas government publications, resources and information available from the State Library of Kansas

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Sep 24

Censorship and Movies in early 20th Century Kansas

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 12:13 PM by Bill Sowers

As we approach Banned Books Week The Kansas Government Information (KGI) Online Library offers a look back at censorship of a different kind... that of early motion pictures in Kansas.

The Kansas State Board of Review, established by the Legislature in 1913, began functioning in 1915 as overseer and enforcer of film censorship in Kansas.  For the next 40 years the Board wielded its authority approving motion pictures to be shown in Kansas movie houses as well as cutting or changing scenes and dialect in some films.

The KGI Online Library has digitized and provides full text for the following publications issued by the Board:

A Complete List of Motion Picture Films Presented to the Kansas State Board of Review for Action   [1915-1939/40 incomplete]

Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Review, 1920/22-1956/58 [Incomplete]

The List of Motion Picture Films includes terse comments of the Board requiring changes to be made before a film was approved for Kansas theaters.  Its criteria for approval often consisted of the elimination of scenes of violence, lewd or suggestive language, sexual activity and drinking/smoking.

These digitized documents give a great initial look into the activities of the State Board of Review.  Another resource with a wealth of information is provided by the Kansas Historical Society at:  https://www.kshs.org/p/board-of-review-agency-history/13817

At the Kansas Historical Society's site you can search a movie index which includes rulings of the Board, read a succinct history of the Board and locate other research resources including an online article on the Board.