No Sunday Haircuts Allowed

By Stephen D. Bowling

While looking through the old ledger book of antiquated laws for the City of Jackson, I came across several ordinances dealing with specific activities that local residents could do on Sunday. Like most cities across the states, Jackson passed its “Blue Laws” in 1919. These laws were designed to promote a day of rest and the strict observance of the Christian Sabbath.

Reported to be the barbershop of William “Barber Bill” Haddix on Broadway in Jackson.

Since the passage of these local laws, the Kentucky Legislature also passed laws regulating the activities that can be conducted on Sunday. One City ordinance struck my interest and I included it here as a public service announcement since I could not find any place where it was amended or struck down for the City of Jackson.

Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Jackson, Ky.:

That it shall be unlawful for any person or persons to open any place of business on Sunday, excepting hotels and restaurants serving regular meals. It shall be unlawful for any hotel, restaurant, drug store, or any other business establishment or soft drink stand or establishment to sell soft drinks, ice cream or anything of like kind, to open on Sunday between the hours of 9 O’clock A.M. and 12 M. and after 7 O’clock P.M.

And no business shall be done on the Sabbath day, except as herein provided for except ordinary household offices, or other wor of necessity or charity. But it shall be lawful for all business establishments having attached thereto and carrying lines of caskets, or other undertaking goods, or for a dry goods, clothing or general store to enter on Sunday for the purposes of obtaining burying clothes or other necessities for the burial of the dead. It shall also be lawful for butcher shops, bakeries, and drug stores to be open on Sunday from 6 O’clock to 10 O’clock A.M. and from 3 O’clock to 5 O’clock P.M.

Cutting hair in the street on Broadway after the 1913 Halloween night fire.

The ordinance was very specific in its punishment for the violation of the Sunday business prohibition. The Council’s ordinance specified that any businessman with “any other trade or calling” was guilty if they worked or if they permitted their apprentices or anyone to operate their businesses whether “for profit or amusement.” The fine established was not less than $2 dollars and not more than $50 as determined by the City’s Police Judge for each offense.

The ordinance went further and specifically targeted what must have been a growing trend in the City limits. Based on the discussion and the final ordinance, Sunday haircuts presented a major challenge to the new ordinance.

The last photo of Murphy’s Barber Shop on Broadway was taken the day it closed in June 1982.

The ordinance targeted “any person or persons who are engaged in the business of barbering on Sunday shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be fined not more than Five ($5.00) dollars, and upon a second conviction for a like offense, shall be fined not less than Ten ($10.00) Dollars and not more than Twenty-five ($25.00) Dollars, or imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not less than five (5) days nor more than Ten (10) days, or both fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court. Lewis Hays, Jr., Mayor G. R. Allen, City Clerk.

Before the days of political correctness, the Council did provide one caveat for Sunday business. The City’s leadership recognized that not everyone observed the same Christian Sabbath. The new law permitted “Persons who observe as a Sabbath, any other day in the week than Sunday, shall not be liable to the penalty herein specified if they observe as a Sabbath one day in each seven as herein provided.” The exception provided for a six-day workweek for Jackson’s growing Jewish community who observed their Sabbath on Saturday.

Barbers at Stacy’s Barber Shop served the people of Jackson for generations. Sadly, it closed and an arsonist destroyed the building several years ago. Although the old barbershops are now gone, many memories remain.

It is fun to read these old and often antiquated laws from generations ago. Many people in our world today just laugh at these ordinances from a quieter and “a different time”. However, they are still the law in the City of Jackson and, more shockingly, the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A quick glance at the “Offences Against Morality” section of the Kentucky Revised Statutes at KRS 436.160 and KRS 436.165 confirms that these “Blue Laws” are still technically on the books in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. There have been challenges to the law, such as Walters v. Binder and City of Ashland v. Heck’s, Inc., but the Sunday prohibitions still technically stand across the state.

It is uncertain when the last case was brought against a business or individual in Kentucky or in the City of Jackson. Regardless, it is still the law. So the next time you head out to do some shopping after church on Sunday, beware for you know not who is watching.

© 2022 by Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Breathitt County, Jackson and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to No Sunday Haircuts Allowed

  1. Danny Fugate says:

    That is very interesting Steve. Would love to read more of your articles like this. Great job.


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