There’s a new exhibition at the Capitol Visitor Center, the museum(ish) is highlighting Congressional Investigations. The display highlights 200 years of investigations and includes items on Nixon, JFK, MLK and more. One part has some importance to comic fans. In the 1950s, the United States Senate held hearings about whether juvenile delinquency was caused by comic books.
In addition to displaying the documents, the exhibit also explains how the investigations sparked new policies. During the 1950s, Congress investigated how comic books were affecting a “dramatic rise in juvenile delinquency” and conducted televised hearings on the subject. After the hearings, comic book publishers revamped their content standards, though likely to the disappointment of a 14-year-old from Pennsylvania, whose letter displayed in the exhibit argued that comic books deter crime.
“The person or persons committing the crime always gets caught. The fear of this stops crime and stops juvenile delinquency,” the teen wrote in his June 1954 letter to the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. “In fact there is not a sufficient number of the comic books on the book stands.”
The United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency was launched in 1953 and in 1954 its hearings took on the case with hearings. Seriously, the United States Senate debated about comic books.
While we might laugh today at how idiotic this all was, it had massive repercussions including the creation of the Comics Code Authority, which was a self-policing set of rules that laid down what could, and could not, be depicted in comic books. The Comics Code was in use until about 2011, and the impact was felt, resulting in the closing of some comic publishers.
The exhibit at the Capitol Visitor Center runs through September 12.
(via Roll Call)