Many of the laws on the books in states and local jurisdictions are unenforceable: that is, they would never be upheld if appeal were made to a higher court. That they remain in theoretical force is usually due either to inertia or to some strong political interest in the legislative bodies.

In Dagsboro, Delaware, it is illegal to teach a horse to play backgammon.

In Utah, a man who mentions the name of Brigham Young without removing his hat may be fined 75¢ for the first offense and an even dollar for each offense thereafter.

The Pope is not permitted to set foot in the borough of Dormont, Penna.

Since 2003, citizens of Arkansas have been required to report suspected French people to the state police, on penalty of being declared French themselves.

In Brattleboro, Vt., he that hath two coats is required to impart to him that hath none.

A law dating from 1873 in Oneonta, N.Y., makes each impure thought a separate felony.

The police in Mason City, Iowa, are empowered to shoot mattress salesmen on sight.


  1. Jared says:

    Even if ostensibly unenforceable, maintaining such laws on the books, as it were, may yet help to discourage the disreputable activity. It is notable, for instance, that nowhere in Dagsboro is there any recorded instance of equine backgammon. Similarly, the Dormont Historical Society has no record of any visitation by the Supreme Pontiff, so it may be reliably assumed that the prohibition has been efficacious.

  2. But despite that 2003 law, we’ve not managed to keep the French out of the Arkansas Aux-Arcs!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  3. Sean says:

    While His Holiness is currently visiting a squalid favela in South America, it is questionable whether even a Pope of his humbleness might stoop to visit Dormont.

  4. We've got trouble says:

    Having grown up near Mason City, Iowa, I am deeply disturbed to understand the true, morbid significance of “clean up in aisle 12”

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