At common law, contracts entered into on Sundays, as well as other commercial activities, were valid and enforceable. But a separate, religious tradition that traces to the Second Commandment frowned on work performed on “the Lord’s Day.” In 1781 a New Haven city ordinance banning Sunday work was printed on blue paper, and since that time such laws have been known as blue laws. The first statewide blue law was enacted in the United States in 1788; it prohibited travel, work, sports and amusements, and the carrying on of any business or occupation on Sundays. The only exceptions in most states throughout most of the nineteenth century were mutual promises to marry and contracts of necessity or charity. As the Puritan fervor wore off, and citizens were, more and more, importuned to consider themselves “consumers” in a capitalistic economic system, the laws have faded in importance and are mostly repealed, moribund, or unenforced. Washington State, up until 2008, completely prohibited hard alcohol sales on Sunday, and all liquor stores were closed, but subsequently the state—desperate for tax revenue—relaxed the prohibition.
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