This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
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June 24 is the 175th day of the year (176th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 190 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment.
Roth v. United States, along with its companion case, Alberts v. California, was a landmark case before the United States Supreme Court which redefined the Constitutional test for determining what constitutes obscene material unprotected by the First Amendment.
Under the common law rule that prevailed before Roth, articulated most famously in the 1868 English case Hicklin v. Regina, any material that tended to “deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences” was deemed “obscene” and could be banned on that basis. Thus, works by Balzac, Flaubert, James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence were banned based on isolated passages and the effect they might have on children.
Samuel Roth, who ran a literary business in New York City, was convicted under a federal statute criminalizing the sending of “obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy” materials through the mail for advertising and selling a publication called American Aphrodite (“A Quarterly for the Fancy-Free”) containing literary erotica and nude photography. David Alberts, who ran a mail-order business from Los Angeles, was convicted under a California statute for publishing pictures of “nude and scantily-clad women.” The Court granted a writ of certiorari and affirmed both convictions.
Roth came down as a 6-3 decision, with the opinion of the Court authored by William J. Brennan, Jr.. The Court repudiated the Hicklin test and defined obscenity more strictly, as material whose “dominant theme taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest” to the “average person, applying contemporary community standards.” Only material meeting this test could be banned as “obscene.” However, Brennan reaffirmed that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment and thus upheld the convictions of Roth and Alberts for publishing and sending obscene material over the mail.
Congress could ban material, “utterly without redeeming social importance,” or in other words, “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.”
With the Court unable to agree as to what constituted obscenity, the Justices were put in the position of having to personally review almost every obscenity prosecution in the United States, with the Justices gathering for weekly screenings of “obscene” motion pictures (Black and Douglas pointedly refused to participate, believing all the material protected). Meanwhile, pornography and sexually oriented publications proliferated as a result of the Warren Court’s holdings, the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s flowered, and pressure increasingly came to the Court to allow leeway for state and local governments to crack down on obscenity. During his ill-fated bid to become Chief Justice, Justice Abe Fortas was attacked vigorously in Congress by conservatives such as Strom Thurmond for siding with the Warren Court majority in liberalizing protection for pornography. In his 1968 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon campaigned against the Warren Court, pledging to appoint “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court.
In Miller v. California (1973), a five-person majority agreed for the first time since Roth as to a test for determining constitutionally unprotected obscenity, superseding the Roth test. By the time Miller was considered in 1973, Brennan had abandoned the Roth test and argued that all obscenity was constitutionally protected, unless distributed to minors or unwilling third-parties.
109 – The Aqua Traiana is inaugurated by emperor Trajan, the aqueduct channels water from Lake Bracciano, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north-west of Rome.
637 – The Battle of Moira is fought between the High King of Ireland and the Kings of Ulster and Dalriada. It is the largest battle in the history of Ireland.
972 – Battle of Cedynia, the first documented victory of Polish forces, takes place.
1314 – First War of Scottish Independence: the Battle of Bannockburn concludes with a decisive victory of the Scottish forces led by Robert the Bruce, though England did not recognize Scottish independence until 1328 with the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton.
1340 – Hundred Years’ War: Battle of Sluys – The French fleet is almost destroyed by the English Fleet commanded in person by King Edward III.
1374 – A sudden outbreak of St. John’s Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion.
1497 – John Cabot lands in North America at Newfoundland leading the first European exploration of the region since the Vikings.
1509 – Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon are crowned King and Queen of England.
1535 – The Anabaptist state of Munster is conquered and disbanded.
1571 – Miguel Lopez de Legazpi founds Manila, the capital of the Republic of the Philippines.
1597 – The first Dutch voyage to the East Indies reaches Bantam (on Java).
1604 – Samuel de Champlain discovers the mouth of the Saint John River, site of Reversing Falls and the present day city of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.
1622 – Battle of Macau: The Dutch attempt but fail to capture Macau.
1717 – The Premier Grand Lodge of England, the first Masonic Grand Lodge in the world (now the United Grand Lodge of England), is founded in London, England.
1793 – The first Republican constitution in France is adopted.
1812 – Napoleonic Wars: Napoleon’s Grande Armée crosses the Neman River beginning the invasion of Russia.
1813 – Battle of Beaver Dams : a British and Indian combined force defeats the United States Army.
1821 – The Battle of Carabobo takes place. It is the decisive battle in the war of independence of Venezuela from Spain.
1859 – Battle of Solferino (Battle of the Three Sovereigns): Sardinia and France defeat Austria in Solferino, northern Italy.
1866 – Battle of Custoza: an Austrian army defeats the Italian army during the Austro-Prussian War.
1880 – First performance of O Canada, the song that would become the national anthem of Canada, at the Congrés national des Canadiens-Français.
1894 – Marie Francois Sadi Carnot is assassinated by Sante Geronimo Caserio.
1902 – King Edward VII of the United Kingdom develops appendicitis, delaying his coronation.
1913 – Greece and Serbia annul their alliance with Bulgaria.
1916 – Mary Pickford becomes the first female film star to sign a million dollar contract.
1916 – World War I: the Battle of the Somme begins with a week-long artillery bombardment on the German Line.
1918 – First airmail service in Canada from Montreal to Toronto.
1932 – A bloodless Revolution instigated by the People’s Party ends the absolute power of King Prajadhipok of Siam (Thailand).
1938 – Pieces of a meteor, estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons when it hit the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded, land near Chicora, Pennsylvania.
1939 – Siam is renamed to Thailand by Plaek Pibulsonggram, the country’s third prime minister.
1947 – Kenneth Arnold makes the first widely reported UFO sighting near Mount Rainier, Washington.
1948 – Start of the Berlin Blockade: the Soviet Union makes overland travel between West Germany and West Berlin impossible.
1949 – The first Television Western, Hopalong Cassidy, is aired on NBC starring William Boyd.
1957 – In Roth v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment .
1963 – The United Kingdom grants Zanzibar internal self-government.
1975 – An Eastern Air Lines Boeing 727 crashes at John F. Kennedy Airport, New York. 113 people die.
1981 – The Humber Bridge is opened to traffic, connecting Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
It would be the world’s longest single-span suspension bridge for 17 years.
1982 – “The Jakarta Incident”: British Airways Flight 9 flies into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, resulting in the failure of all four engines.
1985 – STS-51-G Space Shuttle Discovery completes its mission, best remembered for having Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the first Arab and first Muslim in space, as a Payload Specialist.
2002 – The Igandu train disaster in Tanzania kills 281, the worst train accident in African history.
2004 – In New York, capital punishment is declared unconstitutional.
2010 – John Isner of the United States defeats Nicolas Mahut of France at Wimbledon, in the longest match in professional tennis history.
2012 – The last known individual of Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii, a subspecies of the Galápagos tortoise, dies.
2013 – Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is found guilty of abusing his power and having sex with an underage prostitute, and is sentenced to seven years in prison.
* Bannockburn Day (Scotland)
* Battle of Carabobo Day (Venezuela)
* Christian Feast Day:
* Nativity of St. John the Baptist
* June 24 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
* Day of the Caboclo (Amazonas State, Brazil)
* Discovery Day, observed on the nearest Monday (Newfoundland and Labrador)
* St John’s Day and the second day of the Midsummer celebrations (although this is not the astronomical summer solstice, see June 20) (Roman Catholic Church, Northern Europe), and its related observances:
* Jaanipaev (Estonia)
* Jani (Latvia)
* Midsummer Day (England)
* National Holiday (Quebec)
* Saint Jonas’ Festival or Jonines (Lithuania)