Anthony Comstock

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anthony Comstock (born March 7, 1844 in New Canaan, Connecticut , † September 21, 1915 ) was first chief postal inspector and later a Victorian moral code of affiliated politicians in the United States.


Seal of the "Society for the Suppression of Vice" in New York City (1873)

Comstock was born in New Canaan, Connecticut. He served on the Union side in the American Civil War and then worked for the YMCA in New York City. Shortly before and after the 1872 presidential election , he was instrumental in ensuring that candidate Victoria Woodhull was briefly jailed several times for posting obscene articles in her Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly magazine .

In 1873 he founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice , which had the illustration of a book burning on its seal . In the same year, Comstock succeeded in getting a Congressional resolution for the so-called Comstock laws , which banned obscene materials from literature to contraceptives from mailing.

George Bernard Shaw made the expression Comstockery, coined in the New York Times in 1895, known. Comstock had the NYPD on Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession : (AKA Mrs. Warren's Profession made in 1894) carefully. Shaw described Comstockerei as a constant joke at the expense of the USA: “Europe loves such topics. It simply confirms the Old World view that America is a provincial place and a second class small town civilization. ”( Shaw after Schlosser 2003 ) Comstock, conversely, called Shaw an“ Irish mud dealer ”. Comstock's concept of what could be described as obscene was quite broad and occasionally prevented the dispatch of anatomy works to medical students.

Comstock has been the target of significant controversy and, among other things, personal and physical attacks. He received significant support from church groups, among others. He found recognition for his radical approach to corruption . He managed to shut down the Louisiana State Lottery Company on corruption charges, which had been the only state gambling establishment in the United States to date. Indirectly, today's Indian casinos go back to Comstock, because the US natives are exempt from gambling bans.


Comstock is said to have destroyed 15 tons of books, almost 150 tons of lead printing templates and over 4,000,000 pictures. Comstock claimed to have caused 4,000 arrests and 15 suicides.

Among other things, the case of the esoteric author and suffragette Ida Craddock (1857-1902), whose suicide letter was mainly dedicated to Comstock, which she not unjustifiably felt as a personal nemesis , became known. Comstock's conflicts with Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger were processed several times. He was taken as a model by the later FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover . Comstock's first biography appeared as early as 1927. The book Anthony Comstock: Roundsman Of The Lord (Dt. Milkman or Pastor of the Lord ) was published by Heywood Broun and Margaret Leech and the Algonquin Round Table .

Echo in popular culture


  • Frauds Exposed (1880)
  • Traps for the Young (1883)
  • Gambling Outrages (1887)
  • Morals Versus Art (1887)


  • Anna Bates: Weeder in the Garden of the Lord . Anthony Comstock's Life and Career. Lanham, Maryland, University Press of America, 1995, ISBN 0-7618-0076-X (English).
  • Nicola Beisel: Imperiled Innocents . Anthony Comstock and Family Reproduction in Victorian America. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1997, ISBN 0-691-02779-X (English).
  • Helen Horowitz: Rereading Sex . Battles over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth Century America. Knopf, New York, NY 2002, ISBN 0-375-40192-X (English).
  • Andrea Tone: Devices and Desires . A History of Contraceptives in America. Hill and Wang, New York, NY 2001, ISBN 0-8090-3817-X (English).
  • Amy Werbel: Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock. Columbia University Press, New York 2018, ISBN 978-0-231-54703-1 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Antje Schrupp: The sensational life of Victoria Woodhull (2002), new edition: Buch & Netz, Zurich 2015, ISBN 978-3-03805-040-7 , p. 227f
  2. Craig L. LaMay, "America's censor: Anthony Comstock and free speech," Communications and the Law
  3. a b Eric Schlosser: Reefer Madness . Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, 2003.
  4. ^ The hypocrites' club Now with a new diamond-level member . In: The Economist . .