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Encyclopedia > Comstock Act

The Comstock Law was a 19th century United States law that made it illegal to send any "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" books through the mail. It was passed on March 3, 1873 and is a clear example of censorship. It was named after its chief proponent, the anti-obscenity crusader Anthony Comstock. The enthusiastic enforcement of the Act, often by Comstock himself, made American censorship notorious in Europe. George Bernard Shaw, who had his own works censored in the United States, coined the word "comstockery" to describe censorship without regard for culture or merit. Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... March 3 is the 62nd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (63rd in leap years). ... 1873 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... Censorship is the use of governmental power to control speech and other forms of human expression. ... Anthony Comstock (March 7, 1844 - September 21, 1915) was a United States reformer dedicated to imposing his ideas of Victorian morality. ... George Bernard Shaw (July 26, 1856 – November 2, 1950) was an Irish playwright and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925. ...

The Comstock Law not only targeted pornography as such, but also all contraceptive equipment and many educational documents such as descriptions of contraceptive methods and other reproductive health related materials. Pornography (from Greek πορνογραφια pornographia — literally writing about or drawings of harlots) (also informally referred to as porn or porno) is the representation of the human body or human sexual behaviour with the goal of sexual arousal, similar to, but (according to some) distinct from, erotica. ...

Comstock Law states: Be it enacted… That whoever, within the District of Columbia or any of the Territories of the United States…shall sell…or shall offer to sell, or to lend, or to give away, or in any manner to exhibit, or shall otherwise publish or offer to publish in any manner, or shall have in his possession, for any such purpose or purposes, an obscene book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, drawing or other representation, figure, or image on or of paper of other material, or any cast instrument, or other article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception, or for causing unlawful abortion, or shall advertise the same for sale, or shall write or print, or cause to be written or printed, any card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind, stating when, where, how, or of whom, or by what means, any of the articles in this section…can be purchased or obtained, or shall manufacture, draw, or print, or in any wise make any of such articles, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof in any court of the United States…he shall be imprisoned at hard labor in the penitentiary for not less than six months nor more than five years for each offense, or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, with costs of court.

The Comstock Law prohibition of birth control was not overturned until U.S. v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries in 1936. Birth control describes an effort to prevent or reduce the likelyhood of becoming a parent to a natural-born child. ... 1936 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ...

  Results from FactBites:
Comstock Act (139 words)
The act also banned distribution through the mail and import of materials from abroad, with provisions for even stronger penalties and fines.
Vestiges of the act endured as the law of the land into the 1990s.
Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts introduced legislation in 1997 to repeal abortion-related elements of federal obscenity law rooted in the Comstock Act.
Zap The Comstock Law Before It Becomes A Computer Virus On The Internet! (683 words)
The infamous Comstock Act, passed in 1873 at the urging of Anthony Comstock, secretary of the Committee for the Suppression of Vice, made it a crime to send material on birth control and abortion through the mails.
As a result of Comstock's crusade, publishers were forced to censor their scientific and physiological works, druggists were punished for giving out information about contraception, and average Americans had to live with censorship of their mail, and without access to reliable information about contraception.
The Comstock Act remains on our books today, in slightly modified form, at 18 U.S.C. In 1971, Congress deleted the prohibition on birth control; but the prohibition on information about abortion remains, and the maximum fine was increased in 1994 from $5,000 to $250,000 for a first offense.
  More results at FactBites »



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