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Anthony Comstock

Comstock, Anthony (kŏmˈstŏk) [key], 1844–1915, American morals crusader, b. New Canaan, Conn. He served with the Union army in the Civil War and was later active as an antiabortionist and in advocating the suppression of obscene literature. He was the author of the comprehensive New York state statute (1868) forbidding immoral works, and in 1873 he secured stricter federal postal legislation against obscene matter. That same year he organized the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. As secretary of the society until his death, Comstock was responsible for the destruction of 160 tons of literature and pictures. For his liberal enemies he became the symbol of licensed bigotry and for his supporters the symbol of stalwart defense of conventional morals. Comstock also inspired the Watch and Ward Society of Boston.

See biographies by H. Broun and M. Leech (1927) and De Robinge Bennett (repr. 1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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