Shocking Things that Used to Be Legal

You know how folks frequently bemoan how things used to be so much easier back in the day. Laws weren’t always straightforward when your grandparents or their grandparents were youngsters, and all sorts of crazy things were legal. Here are 10 things you used to be able to get away with that are now, thankfully, illegal.


Historically, it was common to neuter males physically or chemically to produce eunuch servants whose absence of sex drives made them perfect for serving female lords. Additionally, castration was used to punish criminals and political dissidents. Fortunately for all males, the practice is now commonly regarded as harsh and unusual punishment.


Beheading is an ancient method of capital punishment. Depending on the executioner and the weapon’s sharpness, the act can either be quick or long and brutal.

Variability in how well decapitation works and a drop in the popularity of capital punishment have led to it being dropped from most legal systems. Although this method of execution is most commonly associated with Europe, it was employed in the Americas as recently as the late nineteenth century against indigenous people and slaves.


Many nations progressively imposed smoking bans throughout the latter part of the twentieth century and into the early twenty-first, but before this, there were few limitations on where and when you could smoke.

Until recently, the hazardous, carcinogenic consequences of tobacco and secondhand smoke were not widely acknowledged or were downplayed by tobacco firms, implying that smoking could occur anywhere and everywhere. Almost everyone did it because it was so addicting. Fortunately, smoking in developed countries has gone down a lot from what it used to be.

Shipping Kids

It was cheaper for children to travel by post in the early twentieth century when the package and parcel delivery service in the United States was still in its infancy. The only major regulation at the time was a weight limit, which made it less expensive for children to travel by post.

Rather than purchasing a more expensive train ticket, parents could opt to have their kids delivered along with the mail. This kid shipping habit peaked in the 1910s, and the post office was quick to put a stop to it, no doubt fearful of the perils and legal ramifications of endangering children.

Child Marriage

Throughout most of history, marriages between an older man and a younger girl were the norm. The specifics of the marriages changed based on religion, region, and culture. It usually happened after the girl had reached puberty since this was viewed as a verified sign that she was ready to bear children.

While the concept of adulthood varies by nation, child marriage is still allowed in many areas of the world, including the United States and Canada, where the marriage age is set at 16 in large parts of both countries. However, marriage at this age typically requires parental consent.

Open borders

Open immigration, often known as free migration, refers to immigration that occurs without much control or interference from the government. As absurd as it may appear now, this was the standard since policing big borders and ports required a substantial population or more sophisticated automated surveillance systems than were available at the time.

While some countries continue to allow open immigration today, most have chosen more robust border controls due to expanding populations, more mobility, increased job competition, and security concerns.


These surgical procedures were used to influence the behavior of the ostensibly mentally ill by causing damage to some regions of the brain. Even after its inception, the procedure was considered controversial due to its poor track record of success and frequent lack of consent, and it is literally intended to cause brain damage in people who already have mental difficulties. Nonetheless, mental institutes employed the practice from the early to mid-twentieth century, and it was only abolished in most countries by the 1970s.

Driving While Drinking

Driving while drunk has been illegal in some form or another for almost as long as automobiles have existed. Drinking and driving, on the other hand, is a different story. At least in the United States, laws prohibiting the possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage in one’s car did not start until the 1990s. Still, driving with open containers is permitted in around a half-dozen US states.


LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine – all of these recreational drugs were legal at one point or another. Narcotics frequently affect the moods or actions of their users, which first made them popular among doctors, who recommended them as treatments for anything from obesity to mental illness. However, most drugs have been prohibited worldwide due to widespread misuse and proliferation.


As abhorrent as the enslavement and ownership of another human being is to our sensibilities today, it has been lawful since the dawn of civilization. The appeal to slave owners was undeniably the inexpensive, reliable source of labor.

Efforts to make slavery illegal only began in the early nineteenth century in Europe, and the practice was progressively prohibited globally over the next two decades, with Mauritania being the latest country to criminalize the practice in 2007. Unfortunately, even though slavery and human trafficking are illegal, they still happen in many places today.


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