Police Commissioner William O’Brien destroys a pinball machine with a sledge hammer in Brooklyn, circa 1949. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia ordered police to smash pinball machines, alleging that ”pinball is a racket dominated by interests heavily tainted with criminality.”
The Atlantic’s Conor Freidersdorf wrote a great piece about the hysteria and “moral panic” surrounding New York City’s anti-pinball craze:
The fact that…zealous paternalism robbed fellow citizens of an amusement, despite its by-now-self-evident harmlessness, isn’t a reason to condemn them. It is, rather, a reason to tread carefully when we codify our own judgments into binding municipal law. Pinball bans seem unbelievably absurd today. What regulations will seem equally needless to future generations?