San Francisco and “The Ugly Law”


Most US states have their share of bizarre, borderline offensive and sometimes just very dated laws. Take North Carolina and it’s “Bingo games cannot last more than 5 hours.” law. Or how it’s illegal to sell your eyeballs in Texas. Bear Wrestling matches? Yeah, it’s prohibited in Alabama. Our dear San Francisco isn’t any different. For a decade (1860s-1870s), several major cities had something called The Ugly Law which makes it illegal for “unsightly” or “not-very-pleasant-to-look-at” people to appear in public.  The very first appearance of this law was said to be in 1897 in our very own city. One of the most commonly cited one is that from Paris, Illinois- The City of Paris Ordinance. It states:


No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, or shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.



Although some silly laws are still in effect in a lot of our cities and states, the San Francisco Ugly Law has long been gone from San Francisco. Do you know of other odd old or existing laws? Let us know!

Posted by: Rebecca White on

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