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A: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Anthony Comstock Founds the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and Lobbies for Passage of the "Comstock Law"

1873 to 1950

Seal of the society: on the one side arrest the culpret; on the other side burn "obscene, lewd or lascivious" material.

In 1873 United States Postal Inspector and politician Anthony Comstock founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an organization dedicated to supervising public morality. Later that year Comstock successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Comstock Law, which made illegal the delivery or transportation of "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" material, as well as the distribution of any methods of, or information pertaining to, birth control, or any information about venereal disease. 

"George Bernard Shaw used the term "comstockery", meaning 'censorship because of perceived obscenity or immorality', after Comstock alerted the New York City police to the content of Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession. Shaw remarked that 'Comstockery is the world's standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all.' Comstock thought of Shaw as an 'Irish smut dealer.' The term 'comstockery' was actually first coined in an editorial in The New York Times in 1895" (Wikipedia article on Anthony Comstock, accessed 01-12-2014).

The specific mission of the NYSSV was to monitor compliance with state laws and work with the courts and district attorneys in bringing offenders to justice. While the organization is best remembered for its opposition to literary works, it also closely monitored newsstands, which sold the popular magazines of the day. When I wrote this entry in January 2014 the Wikipedia article listed numerous "noteworthy actions"— mainly attempts to suppress literary or theatrical works undertaken by the NYSSV between 1900 and its closure in 1950. As far as I know, all of the suppressed works were eventually published in spite of the organization and the Comstock law(s).

Relevant to censorship, the circular symbol of the society graphically depicted a policeman arresting an offender on the left, and a top-hatted man burning books on the right.

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