Mayor Who Attempted to Enforce Blue Laws in 1881
Was Victim of Own Order
Action of the police and fire commissioners ordering enforcement of the old
blue laws today recalls the administration of George G. Steketee, as mayor, in
1881. The Steketee administration was known for years afterward as the "Blue Law
Mayor Steketee, a Hollander of the strictest religious type, came into office following several years of liberal city administrations. He had served as alderman for three years and immediately after becoming mayor he ordered Chief of Police James Moran to "enforce, the laws and show no partiality".
On the first Sunday after receiving this order, Chief Moran ordered the arrest of every person violating the old Blue laws. Even pedestrians throughout the city were taken into custody unless they were going to or from church.
Among Others who were arrested were J. Morgan Smith, prominent Methodist minister, Edwin F. Sweet, who afterwards became mayor, Congressman and now assistant secretary of commerce, and other prominent people.
More than 200 persons were locked up by the police, the cells at headquarters being filled long beffore noon of the Sabbath. Luce hall, situated on the site of the present Herpolsheimer building, was then requisitioned as a police annex, prisoners being locked up there.
Even milkmen, restaurant keepers, hotel employes and everyone else who worked during the day were arrested.
In those days it was the custom for leading citizens of the city to go to church, and from there to the post office, where they called for their mail and stayed to gossip awhile. The usual crowd gathered at the post office and Moran arrested all of them, including many leading men.
The entire Steketee administration of one year was featured by enforcement of strict laws. Saloons were required to observe the letter of the law and the mayor reported every bar which violated the law and asked revocation of its license.
Eve Mayor Steketee himself, was arrested by Chief Moran, for an alleged violation of the liquor registration law. Steketee was proprietor of a drug store, and was out of the city at the time and alleged offense occurred.
"Chief Moran overdid it". said Steketee, who now lives at 70 LaGrave avenue, S.E. "I told him to enforce the laws and he did more that I expected. During my administration I vetoed more saloon licenses than any other mayor ever has, and I insisted on enforcement of the closing laws. One of the first things I did was to require that every saloon should have the name of its owner over the door, according to law.
"Moran even went so far as to arrest his own son for keeping his restaurant open".
Created: 5 February 2010