Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Smith's Book Store Raid of 1913

September Morn, by Paul Chabas.

Miami Daily Metropolis,
July 14, 1913.
(Click here to enlarge)
Miami's first swipe at public indecency just may have occurred 100 years ago, on the afternoon of July 14, 1913 in downtown Miami.

That's when Miami Police Chief C.R. Ferguson - Miami's second police chief - showed up at Smith's Book Store on 12th Street (now Flagler Street) and ordered the removal of a framed print from the store window of "September Morn," a painting by French artist Paul Chabas.

The Miami Daily Metropolis quoted the chief as telling book store owner Julius Smith, "You can't have a picture like that on public display in Miami. She hasn't any clothes on at all."

The Metropolis reported that, "Chief Ferguson's attention was called to the picture by a telephone call from a woman who asked him to 'just go and see it. It's perfectly awful.' "

Two days later a judge declared, "There is no law against the exhibition of such a picture. No one could be forced by law to remove it."

Eight days after the book store raid,  Ferguson was voted out of office.

"He finished fifth in a seven-man primary," wrote Miami News editor Howard Kleinberg in 1983.

In an ironic twist, the day after the primary, Chief Ferguson was fined $5 for "public profanity."

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