Vile Verses and Prurient Publications 1890

Anthony Comstock, who promoted and enforced the 1873 law commonly referred to as the Comstock Act, spent 42 years attempting to disinfect the souls of Americans by purging the mails of obscenity. His definition of obscenity was expansive, prohibiting even medical students from receiving anatomy textbooks by post.

Many Americans supported his activities, believing that the Government should protect people from publications that compromise our virtue and social order. Others protested, believing the law infringed on their First Amendment rights. Much of the material censored under the Comstock Act would be considered tame today, images of boxing matches and women in corsets and tights among them.