Outdated and No Longer Relevant Laws and Requirements

Outdated and No Longer Relevant Laws and Requirements

© David Burton 2022

Outdated and Useless

     As I was reading through The Jewish Press, a weekly Jewish orthodox newspaper published in New York City, I was struck by the absurdity of its containing some 20 pages of legal notices. Each of these 20 pages had some 7 columns of about 20 rows of legal notices, with print so small as to be almost illegible.[1] And remember this was just in one newspaper that mainly caters to the orthodox Jewish community in New York City. How many other newspapers throughout America are carrying similar legal notices? Why?

     What a waste of newspaper print! I find it extremely unlikely that anyone reads these notices! What a waste of money to pay for these notices that need a magnifying glass to be read. How does someone who has an interest in a particular notice find that notice. Letís see, 20 pages, each, containing 20 rows of 7 columns means that there were 20x20x7 or about 2,800 of these notices. Go ahead and try to find the 1 notice of interest out of these 2,800 notices!

     What constitutes a legal notice and what are some of the requirements for placing such notices in newspapers?

     Legal notices are a type of court-mandated public advertising published in newspapers. There are many different types of legal notice advertising, but they all have one thing in common. Legal notices published in a newspaper come with a certified affidavit as proof of publishing. In New York, the most common type of legal notice is an LLC formation notice. The State of New York requires limited liability corporations to run an ad informing the public on the formation of the new corporation. There are also FCC, SLA liquor licenses, sidewalk cafe notices, name change notices, divorce notices (also known as dissolution of marriage notices), and probate notices.
     Usually, for insurance and bank-related notice ads, the notices need to run in a paid daily newspaper. Different types of legal notice ads have different costs. For example, a sidewalk cafe or name change notice may cost less than a hundred dollars, whereas an LLC formation notice in a daily newspaper could run upwards of a thousand dollars or more. The most important thing is to ensure that the newspaper where the notice is placed meets the legal requirement as mandated by the court.
     Legal notices can be expensive. The major newspapers are usually more expensive because they have a high circulation. But the legal ad may not need to run in a big newspaper. Often smaller newspapers are where the bulk of legal ads get placed because the smaller newspapers cost a lot less. Legal ads are required advertising. But, so as long as a paper meets the courtsí criteria, the advertiser need not be concerned with how large the circulation or readership is.[2]

     As our society has evolved, many old laws have become obsolete. While some of these outdated laws get removed from the books or updated, some fly under the radar, staying active for years after their relevance has declined or disappeared. Here are a few of these old and now irrelevant laws that are still on the books today.

  • The state of Arkansas has a law that makes it illegal to mispronounce the stateís name.
  • In Connecticut, a pickle cannot be sold unless it bounces. This law was originally enacted in 1948 to prevent fraudulent salesmen from selling unfit pickles. Today, the law still exists, but is rarely if ever actually enforced.
  • The state of Indiana requires black cats are to wear bells around their necks when the 13th day of the month falls on a Friday. In 1939, the law was put into effect to ease public stress as World War II neared. The law still exists today.
  • In Maryland, there is a law on the books making it itís illegal to swear while driving. If youíre caught breaking this law, you can face a misdemeanor charge and a fine.
  • And in Wisconsin, butter and cheese are required to be ďhighly pleasing.Ē Wisconsin has several ordinances detailing these palatable requirements for both cheese and butter.[3]
     If one looks hard enough, he/she will find that every state has its own collection of outdated, silly laws. And while these laws may never be enforced, they are still legally valid because no one has bothered to repeal them. Most of these laws are so old, lawmakers themselves aren't even aware that many of them exist.

     Some more of these outdated and crazy laws that were still on the books, as of 2014, in various states were:
  • Pennsylvania state law requires that, when driving at night, you stop every mile to send up a rocket signal. It's true. And if you see a skittish team of horses coming toward you, another Pennsylvania law requires you to take your car apart and hide it under the nearest bushes.
  • In Missouri itís illegal for you to drive down the highway with an uncaged bear in your car.
  • When parking your elephant at a meter in Orlando Florida, the law requires you to deposit the same amount of change as you would for a regular motor vehicle.
  • In North Dakota, itís against the law to serve beer and pretzels at the same time.
     Blue Laws are those established specifically to prohibit certain behavior on Sundays, or "God's Day." Although in general, few people strictly uphold the Sabbath anymore, many cities and towns across America still have legal reminders of this observance on the books. For example:
  • In Salem, West Virginia, it's against the law to eat candy less than an hour and a half before church service.
  • In Winona Lake, Wisconsin, it is illegal to eat ice cream at a counter on Sunday.
  • In Kansas on the Lord's Day. no restaurant is allowed to serve pie a la mode.
  • Marbles, Dominoes, and yo-yos are banned on Sundays in a handful of states.
     There are numerous laws concerning dogs. These include:
  • In Hartford, Connecticut, itís against the law to educate dogs.
  • In Illinois, it's illegal to give lighted cigars to your pets.
  • Itís illegal to make ugly faces to tease a dog in Normal, Oklahoma.
     Not surprisingly, many of the antiquated statutes passed in the late 1800s and early 1900s were aimed at protecting the fairer sex from unwanted attention or less-than-flattering reputations. For example:
  • An old city ordinance in Cleveland, Ohio prohibits women from wearing patent leather shoes in public. The reason? Shiny footwear could afford a nearby gentleman an unintentional peep show.
  • Women in Florida can be fined for falling asleep under a dryer in a hair salon.
  • The sunshine state also prohibits unmarried women from parachuting on Sundays.
  • Forget about trying to publicly adjust your stockings in either Dennison, Texas or Bristol, Tennessee. Performing such a lewd act could land you a sentence of up to twelve months in the state penitentiary.
  • In Michigan, a woman should check with her husband before heading to the hair stylist. According to state law, her hair belongs to her spouse and she'll need his permission before she can alter it.
  • In Charlotte, North Carolina, city law requires a woman to be swathed in at least 16 yards of fabric before stepping out into public.
  • New York City has laws concerning how a woman dresses. In the Big Apple, wearing clingy or body-hugging clothing carries a $25 dollar fine.
     Not all old laws aimed at women were intended to preserve their virtue, however. Some were apparently designed to promote household hygiene and public safety. For example:
  • Pittsburgh has a special cleaning ordinance on the books that bans housewives from hiding dirt under their rugs.
  • Memphis, Tennessee prohibits women from driving a car unless there is a man with a red flag in front of the car warning the other people on the road.
     One can easily conclude that some of these silly laws were simply designed to get a laugh or to alleviate the boredom of local legislators. How else could you explain the following Texas law? "When two railroad trains meet at a crossing, each shall stop and neither shall proceed until the other has passed." But as for others, you can rest assured they reflect the public standards of the time. In fact, if you want to study how public values have changed over the years, there is no better place to start than with your state and local statutes. Not only will you glean some insight into our past prejudices, but also our best intentions. After all, who but a well-intentioned public official would make it a crime to molest butterflies in California?[4]

  1. Legal Notices, The Jewish Press, Pages L1-L20, 11 December 2020.
  2. How to Put a Legal Notice in a Newspaper and Save Money, Adam Ainsworth, futureofnewspapers.net,
    21 January 2019.
  3. 7 Outdated Laws That You Might Have Broken, Vishal Sunak, blog.linksquares.com, 10 April 2019.
  4. Top Craziest Laws Still on the Books, Stephanie Morrow, legalzoom.com, 10 October 2014.

  27 January 2022 {Article 512; Suggestions?_66}    
Go back to the top of the page