Of all the figures in the struggle over turn-of-the-century vice reform, Anthony Comstock is perhaps the last one might expect to encounter immortalized in the nude. He acquired his fame as a censor of nudity, among other offenses: from 1873 to his death in 1915, Assistant United States Postmaster Comstock lent his name and his enthusiasm for law enforcement to the prosecution of the “Comstock Laws,” the eponymous statutes which restricted the dissemination of vicious images and information through the United States mail. In his government post and as the head of New York City's private Society for the Suppression of Vice, Comstock prosecuted quack physicians, abortionists, lottery runners, purveyors of lewd literature and art, free love advocates and physical culture devotees. By the end of his career, he had arrested more than 3,700 people and burned over fifty tons of obscene books, 3,984,063 obscene pictures, and 16,900 photographic plates.
Alyssa Picard is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor where she is an instructor in the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program. Her dissertation, “Making the American Mouth,” is about the history of aesthetic dentistry in the U.S. twentieth century.