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Downingtown's Law and Order Society

On Saturday, June 5, 1886, the following notice appeared in the Chester County Archive which was published in Downingtown:

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About two months prior to the publication of the notice, the Law and Order Society was organized in Downingtown by several prohibitionists in the Borough.  It drew some attention from the local populace and "furnished food for gossip for the town for two or three weeks," but overall, it didn’t generate much excitement until the notice appeared in the Archive.  The Society's primary purpose was to enforce Sunday blue laws by prohibiting the sale and delivery of Sunday newspapers and the closure of all the Borough's cigar shops.  In addition, Downingtown's two drug stores, though allowed to stay open on Sundays, would be limited in what they sold.  Violation of the blue laws would result, as the notice stated, in "prompt measures" being taken.

What prompt measures were to be taken by the Society were made very clear the next day when A. P. Tutton and Joseph Johnson met the Sunday morning train which brought The Times of Philadelphia newspaper to town (at the time, The Philadelphia Inquirer wasn't published on Sundays).  At the station, the pair warned railroad baggage agent William Ward not to sell or deliver any newspapers in Downingtown, and if he did so, he would be placed under arrest and fined four dollars.  After the threat Ward agreed, and dozens of Borough residents were deprived of their papers that day.  However, word had gotten out about the Society's plans to suppress the delivery and sale of the Sunday papers so that nearly fifty residents sent their names to the Union News Company in Philadelphia and had The Times wrapped with their names on them so they could be picked up on the platform.  Others went aboard the train and bought any papers they could find.  Tutton and Johnson picked up on this, but they were unsuccessful in their attempts to stop it.

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Howard B. Sides' drug store is seen here on West Lancaster Avenue ca. 1890.  The building now houses the Station Taproom.  

The Society's efforts did not stop with the Sunday papers.  They also targeted Downingtown's two drug stores and half dozen cigar shops.  On Sundays, the drug stores (Hutchison's Pharmacy on the east end of town and Sides' Drug Store on the west end) were ordered to only sell medicines prescribed by a physician. The cigar stores were warned not to open at all.  A young boy who went into Sides' came out crying when he was told by the druggist he could not sell him two cents worth of licorice.  A woman who wanted to purchase a toothbrush was told "she would have to wait till Monday to clean her teeth."  Smokers who did not purchase enough cigars to get them through till Monday went to doctor's homes in the hopes of getting a prescription to purchase cigars at the drug stores.

The local butcher Elmer Entrekin was also targeted.  Entrekin routinely kept meat in his shop's ice box overnight on Saturday's and delivered it fresh to his customers Sunday mornings.  After making his deliveries that morning, Tutton and Johnson considered arresting Entrekin, but let him off with a warning.

On Monday, no other subject dominated the talk in Downingtown.  Farmers who came to town that day found the topic of discussion on the porches and bar rooms of the two hotels was the Law and Order Society and nothing else.  The question that continued to be discussed was "what they will do next?"

What did the Society do next?  Not much it appears.  No other information has been found about actions they did the following Sunday or any Sunday after that in Downingtown.  The Society may have simply felt the effort wasn’t worth the division they were causing in the Borough.  Even local physician Dr. Laban Bremerman was heard saying they had "bitten off more than they could chew." And the Society certainly didn't expect the bad press they would receive across Pennsylvania and even as far south as Georgia where the Atlanta Constitution newspaper picked up on the story and derided the group, describing them as "certain meek and lowly citizens of Downingtown, who are never happy unless the earth is shrouded in gloom."

Or it could have been they were acting a bit hypocritical.   Some residents noted that employees of the Downingtown Stove Works had worked on a recent Sunday to fill an important order.  One of the directors of the Stove Works was A. P. Tutton, the president of the Law and Order Society.

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The drug store of David W. Hutchison (right) was located on East Lancaster Avenue next to the Swan Hotel.