Newspapers that advertised lotteries: defeated

Last week I read a biography of Anthony Comstock, a Victorian era prosecutor against obscenity, contraception, lotteries and abortion:

The federal and state courts were kept busy prosecuting cases in which the [New York] Society [for the Suppression of Vice] was the complainant. But the newspapers continued to advertise the lotteries freely, until one day the Grand Jury asked Comstock why the newspapers were not prosecuted, and asked if evidence against them could not be submitted to that body. He replied that he would be glad to secure such evidence—and in so saying he knew well that the moment he made this move the press of the country would be practically a unit against him and all his efforts…

He proceeded to secure evidence against every newspaper in New York City that advertised lotteries. He presented his evidence to the Grand Jury, and an indictment was found in every case…One paper, it was claimed, carried over five hundred dollars daily of paid lottery advertisements, often having more than a full page of such advertising in a single issue.

It was not surprising that, when it became known that the newspapers had been indicted on Comstock’s complaint, the New York Chief of Police remarked, “The fool’s hung himself.” A test case was tried. It resulted in conviction. The paper appealed to the Supreme Court of the state. The conviction was confirmed. Then the newspapers ceased to violate the law. It was not Comstock that had hung himself.

Quote source

Trumbull, C. in Dix, S., ed. (2013). Outlawed! How Anthony Comstock Fought & Won the Purity of a Nation [ebook]. Locations 1120-23 and 1338-34.


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