1971 front page

On June 18, 2019, LNP celebrated its 225th anniversary. The earliest newspaper to which today’s LNP traces its roots was the Lancaster Journal, first published on June 18, 1794, by William Hamilton and Henry Willcocks from a news office located in a tavern building at the King Street site of the current LNP building.

To celebrate 225 years of Lancaster newspapers, we present this series of 52 front pages from the history of the newspapers which would eventually become LNP. 

Hair wars

Starting in the mid-1960s, passionate battles were waged in high schools across America. Each side stood firm in the conviction that they were correct, expressing deep moral outrage at the positions and proposals of its opponents.

What was the subject of these fierce debates, which lasted well over a decade and saw their way into various court systems?

Hair. Specifically, which hairstyles were and were not acceptable for boys.

Lancaster County was not immune to this unrest – a battle in the “hair wars” was fought in Donegal School District in 1971, as this New Era front page shows.

Soccer player Brent Zeller’s father, John Zeller, was suing the district because his son’s hairstyle resulted in him being disqualified from the team. American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Ronald Ash filed the legal action in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The district itself and five Donegal officials were named in the suit, which sought to have Zeller reinstated on the team immediately, as well as $10,000 in damages because Zeller was “held out to the community as a person unworthy to represent Donegal High School” and was “impaired in his ability to be admitted to the college of his choice and to seek scholarship assistance for tuition.”

Such cases were increasingly common in courts around the country in the wake of the Beatles’ rise to fame in the 1960s, with their mop-top hairstyles sweeping the nation. Changing male hairstyles coincided with a push to clarify and codify the rights of high school students – in 1969, a landmark Supreme Court case about the right of students to protest the Vietnam War decreed that high school students were in fact citizens with a protected right to free speech.

Whether hairstyles are a form of expression protected under those freedoms was never clearly delineated, however, and cases such as Zeller’s find their way into courts even today.

Modern scholars still study these cases, drawing parallels to other issues where hair and politics intersect, such as women bobbing their hair in the 1920s, or the various debates over hairstyles in the African American community.

Writing in The Journal of American History in 2004, Gael Graham discussed the hair wars in detail. She states that despite the arguments against long-haired boys mostly having to do with tradition and adult authority, “there was also a strong strain of sex panic … that sounds much like our contemporary debate over transgender bathroom access: Long hair meant you couldn’t tell the boys from the girls; long-haired boys would sneak in to the girls’ room; and, ultimately, chaos would result from the blurred gender lines.”

Zeller’s case, the Intelligencer Journal reported a few weeks later, was dismissed. At the time, his father said no further legal action was planned.

Brent Zeller went on to find success as a tennis player, first for Donegal and later for the College of William & Mary. It’s unknown whether he was made to cut his hair to play on the Donegal tennis team.