Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 October 2021
Chapter 2 follows the rise of Anthony Comstock from being a dry goods clerk and vigilante against all things he deemed immoral, to becoming the nation’s most prominent and powerful censor. He was responsible for enacting federal legislation banning obscene materials from the US Mail and served as a special agent for the Post Office, enforcing the law. He founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an anti-vice organization that was emulated in numerous other states. From this position, he waged a lifelong crusade against contraceptives, free love, free thought, literature, art, and everything that offended his Puritan sensibilities. The chapter describes the key events in his long career, including his rise to prominence, his prosecution of Victoria Woodhull for revealing Reverend Henry Ward Beecher’s affair with a parishioner, his various campaigns against free thought, art, and literature, and his prosecution of birth control advocates.