A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 30, 2012
Comstockery

"Comstockery” is a word named after Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), who created the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1873. In 1873, an amendment to the Post Office Act made it illegal to send “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious” materials through the mail. This became known as the Comstock Act and various similar local laws were called Comstock laws.

The New York (NY) Times editorial, on December 12, 1895, dubbed the censorship of materials as “Comstockery” (also used in lowercase as “comstockery"). On September 26, 1895, the playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)—whose play, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, was interrupted by New York’s police in 1905—told the New York Times, “Comstockery is the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States.”


Wiktionary: comstockery
Etymology
From Anthony Comstock (and the Comstock laws which he propagated) + -ery, coined in an editorial in The New York Times in 1895 and famously adopted by George Bernard Shaw in 1905.
Noun
comstockery
(uncountable)
1.Censorship of literature and performances because of especially broad definitions of obscenity or immorality.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Com·stock·ery noun \ˈkäm-ˌstä-kə-rē also ˈkəm-\
Definition of COMSTOCKERY
1: strict censorship of materials considered obscene
2: censorious opposition to alleged immorality (as in literature)
Origin of COMSTOCKERY
Anthony Comstock + English -ery
First Known Use: 1905

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Comstockery, n.
Forms:  Also comstockery.
Etymology:  < the name of Anthony Comstock (1844–1915), member of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.
Excessive opposition to, or censorship of, supposed immorality in art or literature; prudery.
1905 G. B. Shaw in N.Y. Times 26 Sept. 1/7 Comstockery is the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States.
1911 T. A. Schroeder ‘Obscene’ Lit. 101 There is no organized force in American life which is more pernicious..than..Comstockery.

Wikipedia: Anthony Comstock
Anthony Comstock (March 7, 1844 – September 21, 1915) was a United States Postal Inspector and politician dedicated to ideas of Victorian morality.

Biography
Comstock was born in New Canaan, Connecticut. As a young man, he enlisted and fought for the Union in the American Civil War from 1863 to 1865 in Company H, 17th Connecticut Infantry. He served without incident, but objected to the profanity used by his fellow soldiers. Afterward he became an active worker in the Young Men’s Christian Association in New York City.

In 1873, Comstock created the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public. Later that year, Comstock successfully influenced the United States Congress to pass the Comstock Law, which made illegal the delivery or transportation of “obscene, lewd, or lascivious” material as well as any methods of, or information pertaining to, birth control and venereal disease. George Bernard Shaw used the term “comstockery”, meaning “censorship because of perceived obscenity or immorality”, after Comstock alerted the New York City police to the content of Shaw’s play Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Shaw remarked that “Comstockery is the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all.” Comstock thought of Shaw as an “Irish smut dealer.” The term comstockery was actually first coined in an editorial in The New York Times in 1895.

Wikipedia: Comstock laws
The Comstock Act, 17 Stat. 598, enacted March 3, 1873, was a United States federal law which amended the Post Office Act and made it illegal to send any “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious” materials through the mail, including contraceptive devices and information. In addition to banning contraceptives, this act also banned the distribution of information on abortion for educational purposes. Twenty-four states passed similar prohibitions on materials distributed within the states. These state and federal restrictions are collectively known as the Comstock laws.

12 December 1895, New York (NY) Times:
COMSTOCKERY.
Our esteemed contemporary the Courrier des Etats-Unis relates the melancholy sequel of Mr. COMSTOCK’S latest raid, or latest but one, in the interest of ...

Chronicling America
28 February 1897, The Herald (Los Angeles, CA), pg. 20, col. 3:
Were the trustees, after all, guilty of Philistinism and Comstockery?
(...)
-- New York Times.

26 September 1905, New York (NY) Times, “Bernard Shaw Resents Action of Librarian,” pg. 1:
Comstockery is the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States.

OCLC WorldCat record
Bernard Shaw and American “Comstockery.”
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: Literary digest. (Oct. 7, 1905) v.31, no. 15, p.481-482 29 cm.

OCLC WorldCat record
Comstockery; a study in the rise and decline of a watchdog censorship; with attention particularly to the Reports of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, to magazine articles and to news items and editorials in the New York Times, supplementing other standard studies on Comstock and censorship.
Author: William Lee Curry; Society to Maintain Public Decency.
Publisher: [New York] 1957.
Dissertation: Thesis--Columbia University.
Edition/Format:  Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Comstockery in America; patterns of censorship and control.
Author: Robert W Haney
Publisher: Boston, Beacon Press [1960]
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
`Comstockery’: When the Religious Right Wins
Author: R L Webster
Publisher: Buffalo, N.Y. : Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism, c1980-
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: Free inquiry. 20, Part 4 (2000): 40-41
Database: ArticleFirst

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • (0) Comments • Saturday, June 30, 2012 • Permalink