top of page
If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting my work.

What did our ancestors do on Sundays?

Updated: Feb 2, 2019

In a book titled "The Peculiar Life of Sundays", by Stephen Miller, he explains that in America's past there were few activities that were permissable on Sunday, in observance of the Sabbath. In Connecticut, for example, you could not tell a joke on Sunday or even kiss your baby on the Sabbath. Neither could you play an instrument or sing, aside from a church organ or hymns.

Pennsylvania enacted it's first Blue Laws in 1682. The law read as follows, defining a person who would be in violation of the Blue Laws: "Whoever does or performs any worldly employment or business whatsoever on the Lord's day, commonly called Sunday, works of necessity and charity only exempted, or uses or practices any game, hunting, shooting, sport or diversion whatsoever on the same day not authorized by law".

When Pennsylvania officially became a state in 1787, the Blue Laws were kept in place, remaining until November of 1933 when a referendum was passed, overturning the law against playing sports on Sunday. (Imagine no Sunday football for Pittsburgh or Philadelphia? No Sunday baseball for the Phillies or the Pittsburgh Pirates?)

I found it interesting that in December of 1933, the Pennsylvania Liquor Board was created. Prohibition ended four days afterward, and in January of 1934, the first state-run liquor store opened up in Pennsylvania. Only two states have state-run liquor stores - Pennsylvania and Utah. In Utah, any beverage with an alcohol content of 3.2% or higher may only be sold at the state-run stores. In Pennsylvania, all wine and liquor is sold by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Beer and malt beverages can by sold by licensed beer retailers and liquor licenses are granted to a limit number of restaurants and hotels in each town or city. From 1934 until 2003, alchohol was not sold on Sundays. Alcohol has only been sold on Sundays since 2003, when the law against it was repealed.

Blue Laws against selling alcohol on Sunday still exist in some states, however only during certain hours. The only state that still completely restricts the sale of alcohol on Sunday is Indiana.

Other blue laws were enacted in various communities across the state. There were bans on playing pool (billiards), showing movies, or selling cars on Sunday, for example. A dozen states, however, still prohibit the sale or trade of cars on Sundays. More and more municipalities have been voting to do away with the Blue Laws over the years and very few remain in effect today.

So what did they do on Sundays? Well, almost everyone went to church. Visits to friends were also made mostly on Sunday. Throughout the 20th century and even today, the Sunday paper was loaded up with extra reading for entertainment on Sundays and crossword puzzles helped pass the time. The Saturday Evening Post was also popular for this reason. Sunday was America's Sabbath, a day off from all work, a day to spend with the family. It was a day of freedom from the bondage we live in the rest of the week. Somehow we have lost our Sabbath, our day of rest. Maybe we should bring back the Blue Laws. What do you think?


Related Posts

See All


Sign up or log in to save this page to your Site Favorites.

bottom of page