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Jim Kershner’s This day in history

Sun., Nov. 21, 2010

From our archives, 100 years ago

A huge fight was brewing over an issue that seems quaint today: the right of grocery stores to stay open on Sundays.

A 1909 state law banned the sale of groceries – not to mention clothing and many other goods – on Sundays as part of what came to be known as “blue laws.”

Many groceries openly flouted the law, and in 1910 Spokane police suddenly decided to crack down. They discovered 30 groceries open in the city. All were issued stern warnings.

Outrage ensued.

“I shall keep my store open on Sunday the same as I have before, and if I am arrested I shall fight the case to the Supreme Court if necessary,” said one grocery owner.

Pressure to crack down on Sunday sales came from, surprisingly, the Spokane Retail Grocer’s Association. The impetus of the blue laws was mostly religious – observing the Sabbath – but it was also supported by retailers who wanted to have a day off without the worry of losing business to competitors. The only way to make it work was for everyone to comply.

Blue laws would persist in the state until 1966.

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1789: North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

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