Beginning in 1872, Anthony Comstock led a campaign against what he considered indecent and immoral items such as lewd or pornographic materials and contraceptive devices. In 1893, the United States Congress passed the Act for the “Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use,” or “Comstock Act,” after which many Americans faced charges for mailing things considered obscene or immoral. The following records show several instances of citizens in the Philadelphia region standing trial under this law. Though not all were found guilty of crimes, Comstock’s policy put the private matters of each individual in the public sphere. Although over a century old, the effects of the Comstock Act and the anti-vice movements have shaped societal concepts and legal decisions in the twentieth century.
U.S. vs Algernon H Wilcox and Augustus S Meyers, Case File page 2
Algernon H Wilcox and Augustus L Meyers both pleaded not guilty to depositing in the mail an article meant for the prevention of conception, and in July 1884 the jury found both men not guilty.
Wilcox’s court docket serves as a timeline of events in his trial, which culminated in the exoneration of himself and Augustus Meyers.
U.S. vs Albert Niebergall Case File, page 2
U.S. vs Albert Niebergall Case File, Page 3
U.S. vs Pennock M Way, Case File page 2
U.S. vs Pennock M Way, Plaintiff Bill
This exhibit was compiled through the collaborative efforts of Ashley Stevens, Archives Technician; Benjamin Springle, Intern; and Grace DiAgostino, Pathways Graduate Student Trainee.
Want to learn more about the records used in this exhibit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
View OPA catalog entries for documents used in this exhibit here: http://research.archives.gov/description/279067