birth place: New Canaan, Connecticut, United States
death place: Summit, New Jersey, United States
organization: United States Postal Inspection Service
known for: Creation of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and the
occupation: United States Postal Inspector
Comstock appears in The Gilded Hour as a minor character in courtroom scenes.
Comstock was a self-proclaimed ‘Weeder in the Garden of the Lord’ who sought to impose his understanding of law and sin on the general public and the man behind the Comstock Act.
As the secretary of the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice, Comstock conducted raids on anyone or anything he suspected of breaking obscenity laws, including doctors, who were forbidden by the Act to provide patients with information about contraception or birth control. He was a major force in the criminalization of all kinds of contraception. He even went so far as to do undercover investigations of brothels, and to report what he saw there in detail (see Prostitution).
In addition to objections to almost every expression of human sexuality, he pursued and prosecuted lottery ticket sales, gambling, writers such as George Bernard Shaw, and rubber goods importers, who he deemed a threat to the morals of the nation.
He drove more than one person to suicide, and bragged about it.
Comstock’s efforts to instill morality on the country lead him to a persecution of D.M. Bennett, editor of Truth Seeker, the most influential publication of its time dedicated to “science, morals, free thought, free discussions, liberalism, sexual equality, labor reform progression, free education, and whatever tends to elevate and emancipate the human race.” He succeeded in getting Bennett convicted and sent to federal prison, where his health was ruined. He died a short while after his release.
D. M. Bennett
DeRobigne Mortimer Bennett (December 23, 1818 – December 6, 1882) was the founder and publisher of Truth Seeker, a radical freethought and reform American periodical. Bennett was a devout member of the Shakers for 13 years before evolving into a “freethinker”, founding the Truth Seeker newspaper in 1873. In 1878, Bennett wrote that “Jesuism”, rather than Pauline Christianity, was the gospel taught by Peter, John and James.
On 1 September 1873, D.M. and M.W. Bennett released the first tabloid edition of the Truth Seeker. It was “Opposed to: priestcraft, ecclesiasticism, dogmas, creeds, false theology, superstition, bigotry, ignorance, monopolies, aristocracies, privileged classes, tyranny, oppression, and everything that degrades or burdens mankind,,,
- Bailey, Martha J. “Momma’s Got the Pill: How Anthony Comstock and Griswold v. Connecticut Shaped US Childbearing.” American Economic Review 100.1 (2010): 98–129. Primo. Web.
- Bates, Anna Louise. Weeder in the Garden of the Lord : Anthony Comstock’s Life and Career. Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 1995. Print.
- Beisel, Nicola Kay. Imperiled Innocents: Anthony Comstock and Family Reproduction in Victorian America. Princeton University Press, 1998. Print.
- Bennett, De Robigne Mortimer. “Anthony Comstock: His Career of Cruelty and Crime.” (1878): n. pag. Print.
- Blanchard, Margaret A, and John E Semonche. “Anthony Comstock and His Adversaries: The Mixed Legacy of This Battle for Free Speech.” Communication Law and Policy 11 (2006): 317–366. Print.
- Broun, Heywood. Anthony Comstock, Roundsman of the Lord. Trade ed.. New York: A& CBoni, 1927. Print.
- Comstock, Anthony. Frauds Exposed: Or, How the People Are Deceived and Robbed, and Youth Corrupted. J. H. Brown, 1880. Web.
- —. New York Society for the Prevention of Vice Annual Report. N.p., 1883. Print.
- —. The Ninth Annual Report of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. New York: N.p., 1883. Print.
- Garlson, Allan C. “Comstockery, Contraception, and the Family The Remarkable Achievements of an Anti-Vice Crusader.” Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society n. pag. Print.
- Heywood, Ezra Heywood. Free Speech Report of Ezra H. Heywood’s Defense : Before the United States Court in Boston, April 10, 11 and 12, 1883 : Together with Judge Nelson’s Charge to the Jury, Notes of Anthony Comstock’s Career of Cruelty and Crime, Tragic and Comic Incidents in the Malicious, Savage Persecution, Suffered by Moral Scientists Devoted to Social Evolution and Other Interesting Matter. Princeton, Mass: Co-Operative PubCo, 1883. Print. Making of Modern Law : Trials, 1600-1926.
- LaMay, Craig L. “America’s Censor: Anthony Comstock and Free Speech.” Communication Law and Policy 19 (1997): 1. Print.
- “Sharp Practice by Mr. Comstock.: He Procures Another Indictment Against Mrs. Chase It Is Set Aside.” New York Times 11 July 1878: 3. Print.
- West, Mark I. “The Role of Sexual Repression in Anthony Comstock’s Campaign to Censor Children’s Dime Novels.” Journal of American Culture 22.4 (1999): 45–49. Web.
- Wood, Janice Ruth. The Struggle for Free Speech in the United States, 1872-1915: Edward Bliss Foote, Edward Bond Foote, and Anti-Comstock Operations. Routledge, 2011. Print.