The first federal antiobscenity law, the "Comstock law," is passed. The law, which amends the 1872 federal obscenity law, is named for famous anti-obscenity crusader Anthony Comstock who would be the primary one enforcing it in the years to come.
It bans materials that is obscene, information about contraceptoion, and abortion information. It's interesting that three are categorized together in this manner.
The text of the Comstock Act:
"Be it enacted... That whoever, within the District of Columbia or any of the Territories of the United States...shall sell...or shall offer to sell, or to lend, or to give away, or in any manner to exhibit, or shall otherwise publish or offer to publish in any manner, or shall have in his possession, for any such purpose or purposes, an obscene book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, drawing or other representation, figure, or image on or of paper or other material, or any cast instrument, or other article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception, or for causing unlawful abortion, or shall advertise the same for sale, or shall write or print, or cause to be written or printed, any card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind, stating when, where, how, or of whom, or by what means, any of the articles in this section…can be purchased or obtained, or shall manufacture, draw, or print, or in any wise make any of such articles, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof in any court of the United States...he shall be imprisoned at hard labor in the penitentiary for not less than six months nor more than five years for each offense, or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, with costs of court." [emphasis added]
A later court test (U.S. v. Bennett) will uphold the law and produces the "Hicklin rule" for defining what "obscenity" is:
"Whether the tendency of the matter is to deprave and corrupt the morals of those whose minds are open to such influences."
Later, in Roth v. United States, obscenity is defined:
Obscene material is material which deals with sex in a manner appealing to prurient interest - i. e., material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts. ...
The standard for judging obscenity, adequate to withstand the charge of constitutional infirmity, is whether, to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest.