Bylaws of bygone days: A brief history of the city’s strange laws

July 31, 2013 • Local News

The vaults of Roswell City Hall and the Historical Society’s Archive Building contain a treasure trove of historical data about the City’s evolution. Many of the books located at these two sites contain the city ordinances and resolutions dating back to the period when New Mexico was still a territory. They reflect the needs and the morals of the time.

For example: One of the oldest books is handwritten. It covers a period from 1902 to 1906, where it was said that any man who transports on a dray or in a carriage, or is seen in the company of a “lewd woman” will be fined $5.

In 1906, the playing of music in any establishment that sells liquor was prohibited. Later, when moving pictures arrived, playing moving pictures was strictly regulated and as late as 1915, “lewd” movies were not only prohibited, but if an authority deemed the movie as inappropriate, the film could be confiscated and submitted to the National Board of Censorship for review.

One ordinance still on the books in 1939 made any act of fornication illegal in any hotel, boarding house or rented room, along with public parks, streets and alleys. The latter is justifiable no matter what the date; the former bemuses, and the reader can only assume that if a couple chose to honeymoon — not a widespread practice then — they would have had to leave the city limits.

The ordinances also show the issues that plagued the city then as Login to read more

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