Epistle

In February of 1902, Anthony Comstock had Blanche Gray arrested for sending “an obscene epistle” through the U.S. mail. However, it was proved that Miss Gray had used a messenger service, and it was the recipient, “Mrs. Cleveland,” who had placed the letter in an envelope, stamped it and posted it to herself, to get Blanche Gray in trouble with the law. Hence, Miss Gray broke no federal law and U.S. Commissioner Shields released her.

However, Gray’s lawyer, Leonard Snitken, learned that Comstock, typically, had another warrant for Gray’s arrest, under State charges, and was planning to rearrest her as soon as she left the Federal Building. Snitken said she would not leave the building. Comstock said all criminals had to leave at closing time. Snitken said, “Then you’ll have to go yourself.” After a flurry of insults, the group recessed to the Centre Street court where Miss Gray was charged and bailed out.

Lest we feel too bad for Miss Gray, it should be noted that she was also known as Nellie Brooks, Annie Walsh, the Queen of the Pickpockets, and that, according to a news account in 1904, her picture was “a classic in the Rogues’ Gallery.”

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