The first documented blue law within the state of Pennsylvania, which placed restrictions on Sunday activity, was passed in 1779. Further restrictions were put into place in 1794 “for the prevention of vice and immorality, and of unlawful gaming, and to restrain disorderly sports and dissipation.” It strictly forbids “any worldly employment or business whatsoever on the Lord’s day, commonly call Sunday, works of necessity and charity only accepted.” This included, “any unlawful game, hunting, shooting, sport or diversion whatsoever.”

Of course, the times change and there were challenges to the law, especially as more modern forms of transportation came about. In particular, a new situation arose in 1919 when members of a Sunday observance association filed charges against Lieut. John C. Howard for carrying passengers in an airplane on the Sabbath.

On October 25, Philadelphia City Solicitor John P. Connelly offered up his opinion on the matter. He stated, “I cannot see how travel in the air on Sunday is calculated to interfere with the rest, quiet and right of citizenship to worship any more than travel by trolley cars, taxicabs, hired carriages or automobiles.” He added, “… travel by streetcars, by steam railways, by hired cabs, and in these later days, by taxicabs and other vehicles, both upon land and water, and for pleasure or necessity, has become universal, and has come to be tacitly if not explicitly regarded as within the exceptions to the Act of 1794.”

A decision was handed down on November 6 by an unnamed police magistrate, who had pondered over this violation for ten days, concluded that flying an airplane on Sunday in no way violates the Pennsylvania blue laws.

“Birds fly on Sunday and I therefore do not see how the law is violated by a birdman who runs an air taxicab on the Sabbath.”

Lillian Boyer was an early “wing-walker.” Photograph from the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive on Flickr.