Morris Bass was listed as “a Bavarian Jew” in Anthony Comstock’s records. He was arrested in December of 1875 for selling “immoral rubber goods,” at which time Comstock confiscated “6 doz ticklers, 200 doz condoms, 12 doz womb veils, 70 doz microscopic charms, 2 syringes for abortion and 1 vagina.” At the subsequent trial, Comstock acted as the prosecutor and as the only witness for the prosecution. The attorney for the defense noted that “Mr. Comstock recognized no mitigating circumstances and knew no mercy,” and added that his testimony “must always be taken with great caution.” The first trial resulted in a hung jury, and ultimately Mr. Bass was fined $25.


Regarding “microscopic charms”…

In the 1839, John Benjamin Dancer attached a microscope lens to a camera and invented microphotography. Dancer improved and sharpened the image results by using Frederick Scott Archer’s wet collodion process, developed in 1850–51. But he dismissed his work as a hobby and did not patent his procedures.

In 1857, Dancer’s microfilms were exhibited in Paris, where René Dagron, a French photographer and inventor, saw their potential. On June 21, 1859, Dagron was granted the first microfilm patent. Next, he combined the tiny piece of film with a small “Stanhope” lens no larger than a glass bead.

The Stanhope lens was invented in the late 1700s by Charles, third Earl of Stanhope. A simple, one-piece magnifier, it was a cylinder of glass with curved ends. René Dagron modified the Stanhope lens, making one end flat, and mounted his microscopic photos on the flat end.

The photo and the viewing lens were now one piece – miniature photographic jewels or bijoux photographiques microscopiques – small enough to be incorporated into charms, rings, pocket knives, letter openers, watch fobs, etc.

In 1859, Dagron introduced his Stanhope viewers during an exposition in Paris, and in 1862 in London. Within a decade, the fad had exploded and Stanhopes were sold at popular tourist destinations and novelty shops all over Europe and the United States.

The photographs embedded in these Stanhope devices ranged from the Eiffel Tower to the Lord’s Prayer to languorous nudes, the latter of special interest to Anthony Comstock.


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