Censorship and the Hays Office 1921

Censorship and the Hays Office 1921
Will H. Hayes (c. 1921), the postmaster general behind the crusade to save America from Hollywood. | Censorship and the Hays Office 1921

Censorship and the Hays Office 1921

The Hays Office, formerly the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, was an American organization that established a cinema moral code. Following a series of controversies involving Hollywood celebrities, film industry officials created the organization in 1922 to combat the prospect of government censorship and to promote the industry. The Hays Office, led by Will H. Hays, a politically active lawyer, established a blacklist, incorporated morals provisions into performers’ contracts, and published the Production Code in 1930, which specified what was morally acceptable on screen. In 1966, the code was replaced by a voluntary rating system.

Will H. Hays (1879–1954) – American politician

Will H. Hays (born November 5, 1879 in Sullivan, Indiana, United States—died March 7, 1954 in Sullivan) was a prominent American politician who served as president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA, later known as the Motion Picture Association of America) from 1922 to 1945. The Hays Agency was named after him because of his sway over the association’s censoring office.

Hays, a lawyer who was interested in politics, was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1918. He led Warren G. Harding’s winning front-porch campaign for the presidency of the United States in 1920, and was appointed postmaster general the following year (1921–22). After a series of scandals involving Hollywood figures, the motion-picture industry’s leaders founded the self-regulating MPPDA in 1922 to combat the danger of government censorship of films and to generate positive publicity for the industry. Hays was offered the presidency of the company. Hays contributed prestige to the Presbyterian Church as a distinguished national politician and dignified elder in the Presbyterian Church. He started a moral blacklist in Hollywood, put morals clauses in performers’ contracts, and was one of the creators of the Production Code, a thorough list of what was morally acceptable on screen that was not replaced until 1966.


Obscenity and the Comstock Act (1873);

Censorship and Ulysses (1933);

The Limits on Obscenity (1957);

A New Obscenity Standard (1973);

The FCC and Filthy Words (1978);

The Communications Decency Act (1997).


Censorship and the Hays Office 1921

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)