Pipe Dream

In October of 1905, Anthony Comstock had John Storm arrested and brought before Magistrate Pool at the Tombs Court. Storm’s alleged crime was selling a print called “The Old Man’s Pipe Dream.” The exchange that followed was reported in the New York Morning Telegraph:

When Comstock appeared with the complaint, Magistrate Pool looked with no kindly gaze at him. “I have scrutinized this picture carefully, and shown it to many of my friends, and none of us can see where it comes under the law as obscene.”

“But that is not for you to say,” broke in Comstock, “The Court of Special Sessions already has ruled on that point.”

“I don’t care,” said Pool. “Take it away. I will not entertain the complaint.”

“But…” Comstock started to say, when the Magistrate broke in. “But me no buts. You are going to cite an opinion of the Supreme Court. I don’t want to hear it. Get out of the court. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“I represent,” said Comstock, with great dignity, “an organization…”

“I know all about your organization,” broke in Pool. “Bring me some of the pictures you keep in your office and I’ll issue a warrant for you.”

Comstock tried to speak further, when the Magistrate said to the officer on the bridge: “See that this person steps down at once and leaves the courtroom immediately.”

As Mr. Comstock went out of the room he was heard to say, “I’ll have that man impeached yet.”

Unfortunately for John Storm, his day was not over. Comstock went straight to the Court of Special Sessions, presented the matter to Justice Wyatt, and Storm was held (jailed) for trial. Comstock said later that Storm was convicted, although I could find no record of the conviction or penalty.

But Comstock was not done with “Pipe Dream.” In January of 1906, he had William Schlesinger, his wife and 16-year-old daughter arrested for selling “The Old Man’s Pipe Dream” at their stationery store. William chose not to pay the $200 fine, and so spent 20 days in the city prison. Sentences on his wife and daughter were suspended.


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