TESTIMONY OF J. JEROME KAPLON, CHAIRMAN, JUVENILE DELINQUENCY COMMITTEE,
UNION COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION, UNION COUNTY, N. J.
Mr. KAPLON. J. Jerome Kaplon, and my home address, 78 Edger Road, Summit, Union County, N. J. I am an attorney and I am the chairman of the juvenile delinquency committee of the Union County Bar Association.
The CHAIRMAN. You practice in Elizabeth?
Mr. KAPLON. I practice in Summit. I was given the information yesterday that I was a member, appointed a member by Governor Meyner, of the newly appointed joint legislative committee known as the Juvenile Delinquency Study Commission, along with Mr. Simon J. Falcey of Trenton, Hon. John J. Rafferty, former member of the Court of Errors and Appeals of New Brunswick.
The CHAIRMAN. Former member of the House Assembly, too?
Mr. KAPLON. Correct.
Judge David A. Nimo, judge of Hudson County Court, and myself. I am not a legislator. I hold no political office, no governmental office.
The Union County Bar Association is merely acting in its capacity as one of the subordinate elements of the New Jersey State Bar Association who some 8 months ago, about the time your committee was organized, Senator Hendrickson, decided that New Jersey wanted to do something about juvenile delinquency also.
The CHAIRMAN. I might say for the record at this point that New Jersey has done something about it, too. Your committee is evidence of that fact.
Mr. KAPLON. We are happy, if I may digress from the main argument of what I hope to bring out today, the fact that we think in New Jersey, thanks to Mr. Fitzpatrick, of course, and his very fine work in connection with the report that his committee has gotten out, with the appropriation that they had within the limitations they were working ─
The CHAIRMAN. Do you happen to know, Mr. Kaplon, what appropriation they did have, the amount of it?
Mr. KAPLON. I believe it was something like 15 or 20 thousand dollars the first year, and they have been continued.
Our present commission in New Jersey, I am sure, has no appropriation. I know of none. All of the members of it, including myself, will serve without reward or compensation. It has been that way right from the very start when I, as an individual, felt that something should be done because the legal profession has a duty and obligation to the citizens.
We felt that as lawyers we should do our part in trying to probe for and find out the causes and the reasons and what could be done in the preventive field, in the field of juvenile delinquency.
I just read in our paper this morning, and I think it is worthy of note to call it to the attention of this committee:
Eight teeners held as cause of $2 million fire.
A teen-age tale of swimming in a forbidden area, stealing surreptitious "smokes” on a wooden pier, and making clumsy effort to put out the resultant fire with wet bathing suits, was drawn from 8 youngsters yesterday, according to police investigating Tuesday's $2,250,000 fire. The blaze put 125 firemen on the casualty list through injuries or smoke poison, touched off 100 explosions and threatened to engulf much of Edgewater before it was brought under control in one of the most spectacular fire-fighting efforts in years.
The youngsters are age 13 to 16, one of whom was a girl. I just bring this to your attention. It is so new that the ink is hardly dry on the Morning Newark Star and Eagle.
Mr. BEASER. You also have had experience with comic books, crime, and horror comic books?
Mr. KAPLON. We have had plenty of experience with comic books. Our committee has been diligently obtaining the evidence that has been offered today.
I don't think there is any exception in the State of New Jersey or Union County. I picked up something in Chicago only this Tuesday. Throughout the Nation we are having the same situation. It aggravates one greatly to hear the publishers cry and screech freedom of the press. They quoted so beautifully here from Justice Douglas. I don’t they bore in mind the fact there is another quotation from the late Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said in a controversy involving freedom of speech, that the right that a person has to say what he pleases does not give him the privilege or right to shout "Fire" in a crowded theater.
That surely puts those at rest who feel that there has been some kind of thought in regard to censorship.
Our committee is solely interested in the effort to ban the salacious, the lascivious, pocket-book comic books that come into the hands of juveniles.
We don't want to encroach upon the forbidden area of censorship. With that in mind a segment of our Union County Bar Association drew up, drafted, a proposed law which I shall offer in evidence here and, fortunately, because of the new streamlining of our courts and the new setup that has resulted in New Jersey since the inception of the new constitution in 1948, we were able to find a spot where we could put some kind of prohibitive force that would in time, we feel, dry up the very, very source of this trouble, which I feel and still feel lies in the hands of the actual publishers themselves.
I refer, therefore, to assembly bill 401, introduced April 12, 1954, in its exact form that it was turned over to Mr. Thompson of Mercer County. It is a very short bill. I would like to read it.
The CHAIRMAN. You have that privilege.
Mr. KAPLON (reading):
[Assembly, No. 401, state of New Jersey]
Introduced April 12, 1954, by Mr. Thompson. Referred to committee on revision and amendment of laws
AN ACT concerning the sale and distribution of printed publications or other articles in certain cases to minors, supplementing chapter 170 of title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes.
Be It Enacted. by the Senate and General Assembly of New Jersey:
1. Any person, who directly, or indirectly, acting as agent or otherwise, sells, gives or furnishes to a minor under the age of sixteen years, any book, pamphlet, magazine, or other printed matter, the cover of which or the content of which is devoted principally, or in part, to the exploitation or portrayal of lust in a manner which reasonably tends to excite or excites lustful or lecherous desires among minors, and which book, pamphlet, magazine, or other printed matter, for a minor, is obscene, lewd, or lascivious, is a disorderly person and shall be punished by fine of not more than twenty-five dollars.
The second section is to hit the publisher who is sending this stuff in as they claim they are not supposed to keep it, they don't have to keep it, but they don't tell us at the same time, they make it very difficult for any retailer to return this unwanted literature and many of them today are putting it aside and are returning it because─
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Kaplon, do we have any publishers of this type of literature in New Jersey?
Mr. KAPLON. I think we do not have any of these types of publishers in New Jersey. They may print it in New Jersey.
I had occasion to speak to the president of one of the typographical unions living in Hillside. He told me that he blushes when he has to set into type some of the material that is given to him by the higher ups.
Now, the second portion of this act 401 assembly bill:
2. Any person, firm, or corporation, or any agent, officer, or employee thereof, engaged in the business of printing or distributing for the purpose of resale through retail outlets, any book, pamphlet, magazine, or other printed matter, the cover of which is devoted principally, or in part, to the exploitation or portrayal of lust in a manner which reasonably tends to excite or excites lustful or lecherous desires among minors, and which book, pamphlet, magazine, or other printed matter, for a minor, is obscene, lewd, or lascivious, is a disorderly person and shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars.
Then the final conclusion is this:
3. Any book, pamphlet, magazine, or other printed matter, the sale of which to a minor under the age of sixteen years, was the basis for conviction under paragraph 1─
That is where the little retailer has been caught selling something that he shouldn't have sold ─ that particular book:
shall be deemed obscene, lewd or salacious and contributing toward the delinquency of minors for the purpose of prosecution under section 2 of this act,
which is the act that gets at the publisher or the distributor, the man that is in New Jersey.
We have distributors in New Jersey, even though we do not have publishers.
This act, I am informed by Mr. William R. Vanderbilt, as of yesterday, was introduced, had its first reading.
Next Monday, June 7, it will be, I hope, I understand it will be taken out of committee, the committee of law enforcement, and committee of our legislature, and will have a second reading.
On June 14, which unfortunately is the concluding day of our present legislature, it should have its third reading unless we have another sit down strike like we had in the New Jersey Legislature last week when our Democratic friends sat down for some reason or other ─ I don't mean to place that in the record as being derogatory to the Democrats, but there was some other controversy involved and the State's business was held up.
I am assured that on June 7 this bill will have its second reading and then its third reading on the 14th. I am hopeful that this bill will have a dilatory effect, it will stifle the sending in of the salacious type of literature to the retailer.
If it does that, we can get 10 or 15 percent of that sort of thing happening, I think we will have accomplished something.
I am very much interested in following through the first prosecution in a major State court of this act. I hope to be a part of it.
I know that there are recalcitrant dealers who do not cooperate. I have checked my own little home town in Summit. As an outgrowth of the Union County Bar Association's work here we formed the New Jersey News Dealers Association.
The CHAIRMAN. Before you pass on that, Mr. Kaplon, have you given any thought to the constitutionality of this bill?
Mr. KAPLON. I have consulted with special counsel to the Governor, Mr. Comerford, who looked it over several weeks ago. He was concerned as you and I, as lawyers, are concerned, about censorship. He feels that on the standard for obscenity for adults, we have laws on our books as you know, that you can in some way or other tie in or obtain a conviction if the periodical is obscene under our indictment laws.
But we are stepping this crime, so-called, down to merely making it a disorderly person. It is very trivial in its conviction. A $5 fine just like we have today in our State, a fine for anyone who sells cigarettes to a child under the age of 16.
That is where we found a place for this particular act. There had been no conviction under that act, although I understand in Linden about 8 weeks ago a merchant was hailed into court and fined $5 for selling a cigarette to a child under the age of 16. I think that this particular legislation will not cause a flurry of complaints and indictments. I do worry about that. There are zealots. There are individuals who are just waiting for an opportunity to grab hold of the Newark News and claim that the picture of a woman wearing a brassiere in an advertisement is obscene and that if a sale is made to a child under 16 there may be an infraction of the law.
I had that on good authority. My hometown editor tells me that he has been called on the telephone, that an ad that appealed in one of the big department stores advocating the sale of a brassiere was immoral to this particular individual.
So we do fear zealots, and we ask for reasonable interpretation of this law.
But I do feel that once a dealer who is not cooperative, Senator, and who say ─ and I know there is at least 1 in my town out of the 11 who have told me so ─ that "This is my bread and butter, and I will sell what I please," there should be an example made of him and once he knows that he is going to be fined $5 he is going to cooperate. He is going to be sending back this stuff that is junk, as Mr. Fitzpatrick says. Once he does that it will be a long time before that distributor will take a chance sending other stuff of similar nature to him.
Mr. BEASER. Will your statute get at the crime and horror comics, or is it aimed at a broader thing?
Mr. KAPLON. The work that we have been working on has not been on crime and horror. I started off 8 months ago when I wrote a letter and I feel I would like to say, as in this letter to the Elizabeth Daily Journal, October 8, it says here:
Let us assist in the great work to be done by the recently appointed Senate Committee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency whose counsel is Herbert J. Hannoch, Esq., of Newark. He needs your suggestion and help in a hearing shortly to commence. Perhaps a way can be found through legislation to control the incubation of juvenile delinquency which feeds on the rotting of the soul of the weakened mind and spirit stimulated by an indiscriminate circulation of questionable and easily accessible books.
They printed that letter. I have other matters in here that might prove interesting, but we feel, our committee has felt, and I think I can speak on their behalf, that the type of literature that is coming through in torrents in the form of mental aphrodisiac, just as cigarette will spoil and harm the physical well being of a child under 16, under the police power we have a right to have such a law passed.
We feel that the constant bombardment of the young mind by this, type of literature can disturb the moral fiber of the child.
I read very carefully Dr. Wertham's book, extractions from it. I was here at the time this committee heard him on it, and I feel confident in my own mind that while comic books, books that are sex stimulators, girlie books, are not the sole cause of juvenile delinquency; they at least are a contributing factor.
I have always felt in accordance with a biblical expression if you can save the life of only one person, you are considered as if you had saved the whole world.
Let us make some progress at least, a small percentage. If we can just get this constant torrent of filth brought down to a point where it does not pay a man to spend $30,000 to get 300,000 copies out, then we will have accomplished something. They will think twice before they will go into a venture which might run afoul of the law in our State.
Mr. BEASER. Do you think the answer lies through legislation, cooperation, or community effort?
Mr. KAPLON. I feel that community effort is an important thing. We have felt that the problem is not so much the juvenile delinquent, but the juvenile in delinquent society.
I feel that delinquent society can no more be better ably planned than by some of the publishers who are getting out this type of thing for the one sole purpose, for the money influence that comes out of it. It is a business. It is a mass industry and that is one of the first things we have found mass industry is used to impair the morals of a child and that is criminal in our State, too.
You can't put your finger on these things so easily.
I would like to offer also in evidence the seal of the New Jersey News Dealers Association and its pledge card, which takes a positive attitude. If I may read just about seven lines or so, the purpose for it incorporation:
To inculcate the highest ideals of American citizenship in the youth of our country by promoting the publication, distribution, and sale of that type of literature that will morally and spiritually build the youth of New Jersey and of our Nation into substantial American citizens, to encourage the interest and participation of all citizens of New Jersey in affording clean, wholesome and exemplary literature for juveniles. To promote the basic concepts of our Founding Fathers as portrayed in the Constitution of the United States by advancing that type of literature which will furnish these principles and ideals.
The CHAIRMAN. Without objection, these exhibits will be made a part of the record. Let that be exhibit No. 81.
(The documents referred to were marked "Exhibit No. 31," and are on file with the subcommittee)
Mr. KAPLON. There should be more of the Horatio Alger, Tom Swift books we had 25 or 30 years ago.
On that point may I add another shot, and that is the results of the Kinsey book.
Senator HENNINGS. Why do you say Horatio Alger and Tom Swift?
Mr. KAPLON. Horatio Alger books, if I recall correctly, and may I just quote:
What we need is a fewer Aly Khans and Rublrosas and more Daniel Boones and Horatio Algers.
The governor made this statement:
The modern ideal of feminine perfection seems to be a punk actress with platinum hair and an overstuffed bosom.
That was our governor.
And that, Mr. Chairman, is why I feel there should be positive effort and it can be done. That came to one of my dealer merchants that I dealt with from a publisher, the Dell Comics.
Here is proof positive that good comics far outsell all others.
I feel that your committee is accomplishing great work here and that this is proof positive that your work is bearing fruit when they realize that 22 of the leading 250 magazines on the newsstand, 44 percent of your top sellers and big profit makers, are Dell Comics.
When they know they have to go out of their way to censor themselves you know very well that your work has not been in vain.
I want to pay compliment to this group here. I have felt from the very beginning the work has been much needed. It is grand relief from the reckless talk and blabbering we hear from other investigating committees. I am hopeful you can take this law, if it is passed, and send it on to the other States and let them model it in the same way.
Mr. Fitzpatrick has told me that he hopes this very same law may become part of their statutes, too. He realizes they have fallen short of what they hoped to do. He is very much interested in this gimmick or device ─ better call it that ─ which will enable us to get our foot in the door at least, anyhow.
It will not be censorship because that same storekeeper can handle the most vicious type of literature that might be indictable as long as he does not sell it to a minor.
I am confident that no storekeeper who is that vicious will welcome repeated lines in court, taking away from his profits, until he reaches the point where he will place his hands in the air and say, "To hell with all this kind of trash. I don't want it around here."
I wrote a letter to Dell Comics and I told them about the work that is being done here in trying to have them become interested in our New Jersey News Dealers Association, which is a nonprofit organization working on no budget, no appropriation, and sorry to say, that I personally am out the money for the seals and for the pledge cards and for the labor and work.
It is a job of love. This is not the responsibility ordinarily by the bar association. We have been practically in every town in Union County. We have pictures taken of storekeepers cooperating, and the editor of the Elizabeth Journal had a lead editorial 2 weeks ago in which he congratulated one of the storekeepers, Mr. Sullivan, whose business has jumped marvelously since he placed in his window and signed a pledge card to the effect, "I pledge to sell only clean literature to children."
As a result of that kind of community effort we are going into Rahway this week; we are going into Linden; we are going to have pictures and seals going on the windows. People are becoming alert. We have addressed the following: Catholic War Veterans of Union County, at Linden; Knights of Columbus, at New Providence; Youth Guidance Council, at Rahway; Union County Grand Jurors Association, at Elizabeth; Catholic Daughters of America, at Trenton; Holy Name Society, at Roselle; and a YMCA forum in Summit.
We have had 8 or 9 or 10 evening engagements in recent times on this subject, the harmful influence of the comic books on the youth of our country.
If people are awakened and realize what is going on, I think they will rise up in arms and they will support and they will boycott - I do not like to use that word "boycott"; it has been used before and it is a harmful word to use, but I think if it is necessary, if a man is absolutely uncontrollable as a news dealer and refuses to exercise decent, fair judgment, there should be some measure of retaliation by his customers and he will lose business thereby.
I touched on the Kinsey book before I went into this thought on the New Jersey News Dealers Association. I was amazed to find out that in Formosa there was a news item only appearing 10 days ago ─ I am not concerned whether Formosa is in the Nationalist camp or otherwise; they banned the Kinsey report because it exerted an undue psychological influence on students. Those are the words.
There was a five-line press report. If they can do that in Formosa, they can certainly exercise a better discretion in our own country.
Senator HENNINGS. Have you read the Kinsey report?
Mr. KAPLON. I have read excerpts from it.
Senator HENNINGS. Is it in your judgment a fallacious presentation?
Mr. KAPLON. It is a grand treatise for doctors. It makes spicy reading for adults. But it is a disgrace if it gets in the hands of minors.
My only experience has been that I went to the public library and I asked the librarian there what the story is on the Kinsey book.. I was amazed to find out. He says only yesterday three high-school girls came in and wanted the Kinsey book.
Free speech. Freedom of the press. The librarian says, "What do you want it for?"
The children say, "We are studying glands."
You can find much more than glands in that book. I hope the press does not publicize any more than they have publicized it already.
But the real harm is due entirely to the psychological twist. The Kinsey book has been perverted to the point where they are selling a synopsis of this book in our very city in New York under the guise of sex habits of American women for 35 cents.
Now a child does not have to make an excuse to the librarian that she is studying glands; she does not have to even go in a store and blush while she asks for the Kinsey book; and I know in my hometown a young man was turned down by a legitimate bookstore with $8 in his hand. He wanted the Kinsey book. All they need is 35 cents.
You will be amazed, too. It gives a very fine synopsis of the Kinsey book that is being sold in our best drugstores. Certainly it is good literature. You can't censor that sort of thing to an adult, but it is easily accessible for the price of an ice-cream soda to a child who wants to learn something, and there is no child and probably no man here who has not tried to find out in his youth probably what some of the dirty words are. He can find them out right here.
Then the thing that probably is most aggravating, gentlemen and, this I shall say, it has not been touched upon, either ─ one of the best sellers this country has had in many years, and made into a wonderful moving picture, I think it is grand, From Here to Eternity. More smut appears in this book that you wouldn't find in a toilet, in a flop-house, in the Bowery, and not for $3, but for seven-fifty.
I am hopeful that papers will not pick that up, because it will zoom from here to eternity.
Also, it is a shame to the author to think that he could not have completed a book like that without the insertion of the vulgarity that is in there.
To make it all the more aggravating, those of you who are here, you can find out for yourselves, the paper-book edition, on page 447; and I shall not repeat the words here because they are not proper to repeat before an assembly of gentlemen even ─ they italicize the most vulgar word; it is not of the English language - the most vulgar word you could not really find in a toilet, in a flophouse, in the Bowery.
If an adult wants to read it, it is perfectly all right, but I certainly wouldn't want my 17-year-old daughter to actually see a word that you know is forbidden to see, right in front of her.
What is the actual sense of that when she knows she sees it there, she can repeat anywhere, it is common knowledge? It is literature; it will become a classic 10 years from now.
I don't know whether I am committing libel or slander. I am speaking on behalf of myself now. Personally my sensibilities for our children are hurt to know that they had to have that sort of saying in a book, paperback edition.
I wanted to call your attention to one item that appeared ─ I made a photostatic copy of the Sex Habits of American Women ─ the change in attitude toward virginity. Among the group of middle-class married women, where they get their dope from, I don't know, but that doesn't make a bit of difference to a child who is beginning to blossom into womanhood, before 1890: Not virgin at marriage, 13 percent.
Skip down to 1910 or later: Not virgin at marriage, 68 percent.
I have always felt that people followed the sheep. When you see something hike this in there ─ where they got their dope from, I don't know ─ I feel that any boy's mind could be very quickly turned where the tables are evenly balanced.
Our work has been principally on this type of literature rather than on the crime comics. The psychological effect ─
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Kaplon, in that connection, as I recall it, you said this bill that is pending in the New Jersey House Assembly did not provide any enforcement provisions for the crime comics.
Mr. KAPLON. It did not. We were afraid to go out whole hog at this time. We wanted to get this thing through with as little bickering as possible.
Crime comics, there has been argument on both sides. I am convinced it has an effect on the child.
The CHAIRMAN. You said that bill was pending in the committee?
Mr. KAPLON. It is pending in the committee on revision and amendment of laws. Mr. Vanderbilt told me yesterday that it is expected to be moved out of the committee on June 7 when it will have its second reading.
The CHAIRMAN. Your committee does not think it advisable to cover crime comics in this legislation?
Mr. KAPLON. If we could cover crime comics it would be delightful, but I am hopeful to get at least a portion of it in now. It is almost too late to try to get the crime comics element into this bill.
The CHAIRMAN. Would it be bold of the Chair to suggest that you might contact Bill Vanderbilt and ask him if he could not have a committee print written up so as to cover crime comics?
Mr. KAPLON. I shall be very happy to contact Bill Vanderbilt and see if we can't get something through on that, and again copying the fine work of Assemblyman Fitzpatrick, to whom we are deeply indebted in New Jersey. If he would send the legislature a bill for the work that they have accomplished, I would really think that the legislature of New Jersey would be getting a good bargain.
The CHAIRMAN. I think the whole country is indebted to Mr. Fitzpatrick.
Mr. KAPLON. Of course, I mention your committee, too. Without your help, without the influence, the prestige of the Senate subcommittee hearing, we would not have gotten to first base. It has been an encouraging note from the very beginning. The entire country should be greatly obligated to this group of men who have toiled and worked as hard as you have worked in order to bring to the attention of the public at least the harm that is being done, the moral fiber of our youth being destroyed at the back door while we are trying desperately to fight communism through the front door, as we should do.
The CHAIRMAN. We wish to commend you for the fine work you are doing and the contribution you are making so unselfishly and so courageously.
Mr. KAPLON. Thank you. It has been a pleasure.
Senator HENNINGS. Mr. Chairman, I think it is very evident that Mr. Kaplon is a most public-spirited man and is animated by, I was about to say zeal, I don't mean zealot, by a righteous zeal to do something about this problem that confronts us, you realize the complexity of it, of course.
Mr. KAPLON. The complexity is a burden.
Senator HENNINGS. It is a tough problem.
Mr. KAPLON. No question about it. If we can hold the zealots in line who may want to prosecute any storekeeper who may be selling a magazine like Life, that occasionally has a rather interesting picture of a fully clothed woman, shall we say, but in a position that might raise a supercilious eyebrow ─ we cannot really be prudes altogether, but there are some people who will be and they can make a mockery of this law if they go into action. I am hopeful we can stem the tide in New Jersey.
The CHAIRMAN. So whatever law we have we will have to have proper safeguards in it.
Mr. KAPLON. Yes; that we are convinced of, Senator.
Senator HENNINGS. Have you not even heard of the prurient mind who turn pictures in all directions trying to see what they can make out of them?
Mr. KAPLON. I have enough confidence in the magistrates in our State who will act upon this when the complaint is brought in that they will use good judgment in not permitting the law to get out of hand.
A little prosecution, a little conviction here and there against a recalcitrant dealer, and a little more, shall I say, effort in getting all of our news dealers signed up, might operate and operate very well.
I think that I have been too lengthy. I know it is late.
The CHAIRMAN. You have been very helpful.
Mr. KAPLON. It is a disadvantage to be working at the shadow hour of 5 o'clock. I want to express my willingness to return at any time, any place, in order to give you any information that might be at all helpful.
The CHAIRMAN. We shall appreciate that very much. Thank you.
Mr. KAPLON. I would like to present to this honorable body the interim report of the Juvenile Delinquency Committee of the Union County Bar Association of New Jersey. This report is the result of several months of effort in trying to probe the reasons for juvenile delinquency and to endeavor to find preventative means of curbing juvenile delinquency principally by acting in that field which will ban the sale of salacious and lascivious literature by news dealers to minors under the age of 16.
I am grateful that the committee will accept this report.
The CHAIRMAN. That will be exhibit No. 32.
(The report referred to was marked "Exhibit No. 32," and reads as follows:)
THE JUVENILE IN DELINQUENT SOCIETY
INTERIM REPORT OF THE JUVENILE DELINQUENCY COMMITTEE OF THE UNION
COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION
It is a tradition of lawyers, as of all ritualists, to show a high disdain for the ordinary workaday details of life. Like the two maiden aunts in Marcel Proust, who carried on an elaborate conversation in which they sought to thank Swann for a gift, without mentioning the gift, which by their social code would have involved too vulgar a contact with ordinary life, lawyers, and judges stick to their code and mention social reality only by innuendo and indirection. And so, this report, too, is a departure from syllogisms, rituals, and abstractions in that it breaks with such tradition in its treatment of one of the many facets of an ordinary and workaday detail of life ─ juvenile delinquency.
No more alarming symptom of present-day lawlessness can be cited than the shocking spectacle of juvenile transgression now running rampant throughout our Nation. In the age group of 10 to 17, figures complied by the United States Children's Bureau released at the annual forum of the National Conference of Social Work last month in Atlantic City, revealed a startling increase of 45 percent in delinquency cases for the 5-year period, 1948─58, as compared with a rise of only 7 percent increase in population during the same period in this age group. It may be said that this revolting pattern of social decay has reached the serious proportions of a national epidemic. Through indifference or preoccupation with vexation and stress in a world in turmoil, we have shut our eyes to the present level of moral deterioration of our adolescent society. "We devote much attention, energy, and resources ─ and rightly so ─ to the fight against communism, both at home and abroad. We are waging the fight to keep this Nation free. To what avail is that fight if the moral fiber of more and more of our children Is being undermined? We devote untold millions to the protection of our national resources through reforestation, prevention of soil erosion, and the like. But we are neglecting our biggest national resource ─ our children and youth." (Interim Delinquency Reports Conclusion of United States Senate sub-committee, headed by Senator Robert C. Hendrickson of New Jersey.)
Our statutes provide, under 2A: 4─14 that "the juvenile and domestic relations court, shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine all cases of juvenile delinquency." And juvenile delinquency is defined by the commission by a child, under 18 years of age, of an act which when committed by a person of the age of 18 years or over, would constitute the gravest of offenses. The only exceptions are found in Revised Statutes, 2A :4─15, which provide that in cases involving juvenile delinquency, committed by persons of the age of 16 or 17 years, where it appears that the act of delinquency was committed by an habitual offender, or where the offense is of a heinous nature, then the juvenile court may refer such case to the county prosecutor. In addition, "any juvenile of the age of 16 or 17 years, may demand a presentment and trial by jury, and, in such case, when this fact is made known to the court (juvenile court), such case, together with all the documents pertaining thereto, shall be referred to the county prosecutor. Cases, so referred to the county prosecutor, shall thereafter be dealt with in exactly the same manner as a criminal case." The likelihood of a youth of 16 or 17, voluntarily placing himself within the jurisdiction of our criminal courts, is quite remote. These references to the prosecutor are further enunciated in Revised Rules of Practice, 6:9─7.
Every adult concerned with the welfare of our youth, cannot fail to recognize the grave impact of the United States Senate subcommittee hearings on juvenile delinquency, the New York State Joint Legislative Committee To Study the Publication of Comics and the recent creation of a similar joint legislative committee in our own State. Several months ago, the New Jersey State Bar Association, with a membership of some 3,000 lawyers, joined in the effort by Its delegation of 21 county bar association subcommittees on juvenile delinquency. These agencies have been diligently engaged in seeking out the causes, probing for prevention, arresting the growth and endeavoring to control the spread of this cancer of modern day society.
It can be said that our State has achieved unique success in the reformative and correctional processes of our erring youth. On March 15, Life magazine featured an article on the great strides of our State in this department. The title of this article was, "Helping Bad Boys ─ A Plan Pays Off for New Jersey."
In reclaiming our youth, the diagnostic center at Menlo Park, and the Highfields experimental project ─ the former Lindbergh home at Hopewell ─ are in spiring landmarks in the reformative field. The latter program, began in July of 1950, is described in a report based on a 17-month operational period, as accomplishing "as much, if not more, in its 4 months of residential treatment, as the reformatory at Annandale does in its more than 12 months." Moreover, the rate of success on probation or parole, in the case of boys released from Highfields, was shown to be substantially higher than the record for Annandale. Experiments such as these in the conservation of human resources, may very well provide methods which will bring about a turning point in the tide of juvenile delinquency. The continued strengthening of such facilities should greatly augment the court's effectiveness in fulfilling one of its principal functions ─ the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.
In unraveling juvenile delinquency, the pathway does not lie in unrelenting and vengeful punishment, but in persistently seeking and uprooting the causes; in probing for the symptoms, rather than in treating the disease "after the horse has been stolen."
Our legislators, psychiatrists, probation officers, parent-teachers groups, religious and civic organizations are wrestling with the question posed by the admitted monthly publication of 90 million comic or pocket books, 25 percent of which are estimated as being principally devoted to horror, crime, and sex exploitation and stimulation, beamed to juvenile eyes and slanted for juvenile consumption because of their easy accessibility and cheap cost. Obscenity, lewdness, and indecency to the sensitiveness of the adolescent litter the magazine racks. Just like a drowning man who grasps at a straw, there is a growing school of thought that points an accusing finger at this insidious and pernicious influence on the minds of our youth. Santayana once said, "The man who gives a wrong twist to your mind meddles with you just as truly as if be hit you in the eye; the mark may be less painful, but it is more lasting."
Interspersed with this torrent of filth, are commendable publications that are a credit to the industry. Is that smaller portion, characterized as literary garbage, protected by the freedom of the press, harmful to the mind of a child? Is seduction of the innocent and moral disarmament of our youth induced through the subtle and pervading effects of crime and sex comics? Do these magazines and the crime and love comics that flood the newsstands, contribute to delinquency? Unfortunately, there is no stock answer.
Early this year, a grand jury in Middlesex County drew a direct connection between the public display of pornographic literature and the growing number of nonsupport and desertion cases. Police Commissioner O'Connor of Chicago says that the recent increase in rape and sex crimes is directly attributable to the influence of lurid magazines and books. The juvenile court judges in Minnesota have issued an approved reading list for young people. They feel that it is part of their job to get indecent publications out of youngsters' sight and touch. (See p. 18, Report of New York State Joint Legislative Committee to Study Publication of Comics.) We have in this country some of the most beautiful, thoughtful, amusing and informative magazines in the world. Among the pocketbooks on the newsstands are some of the best reading values ever offered; Bibles, atlases, and geographies, books on child care, reprints of the great novels and short stories. But crowding all of these useful and enjoyable magazines and books, are publications which can have no possible effect, except to misinform the adolescent, debase his thoughts, and degrade his emotions. The publishers of such material will stop at nothing to catch the eye.
The laws of our State make the sale of obscene and indecent literature an indictable offense (2A: 115─2). The test of what is obscene and indecent is not easily definable. The test generally laid down is whether the writing is of such character as would tend to deprave the morals of those into whose hands the publication might fall, by suggesting lewd thoughts and exciting sensual desires. In Dysart v. U. S. (277 U. S. 655), the Supreme Court indicated, as one test, that the language must be such as would be calculated to corrupt and debauch the minds and morals of those into whose hands it might fall.
In New Jersey (See Bantam Books, Inc., Plaintiff v. Matthew F. Melko, prosecutor of Middlesex County (25 N. J. Super, 292) a test case sought to establish the right of a prosecutor of the pleas to ban certain objectionable pocket comic books, culled from a list compiled by volunteer citizen groups. Letters from the prosecutor to dealers in the county, attacking the Chinese Room were cited by the plaintiff, as the basis for its injunctive suit seeking to restrain the prosecutor. The publishers, plaintiff, claimed abridgment of freedom of the press, guaranteed under the first amendment. In a brilliant 30-page opinion, emphasizing abhorrence of censorship, Superior Court Judge Goldman found the questioned book within the accepted limitless standards of a free press. The Supreme Court upheld the decision but modified the injunctive relief by striking down that portion of it that denied the prosecutor the power to warn dealers that certain hooks were on the banned list. The reasoning sustaining this permissive quasi-censorship, epitomized in the Supreme Court opinion, was sound: Law enforcement agencies have the right to warn in advance possible infringement of any law. The green light was flashed to the unethical publisher to grind out more and more of this literary garbage; to stimulate the adolescents with pocket and comic books on the borderline of pornography and in the twilight zone of obscenity which pandered sex with the lethal weapon of a mental aphrodisiac.
We feel confident that if this test case had involved an infraction of our proposed bill (assembly 401─See exhibit A) the court would have taken judicial notice of the mass of dirty, revolting pocket and comic books failing into the hands of juvenile and contaminating their impressionable minds. To allow, unchecked, this torrent of filth and trash condemns us as delinquents because the failure or neglect to furnish protective care through public health legislation for the growing mind of the adolescent, constitutes an abdication of adult responsibility.
It has been felt that the court, in protecting the freedom of the press, has leaned over backwards in its unwillingness to be unduly censorious. It must he observed that the entire field of censorship involves the suppression of freedom. This precious heritage, guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution, must, at all costs, he held inviolate; but, at the opposite pole, it may he safely argued that the right to protect the morals of youth is just as sacred as the right to freedom of the press vouchsafed for us in the Bill of Rights. The unscrupulous or unethical publisher who claims the right to print what he pleases, must be reminded of the immortal words of the late Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who, in a controversy involving freedom of speech said "that the constitutional protection to say what we please, does not give one the right to shout 'fire' in a crowded theater."
The real knotty question involved is how we can regulate and control the industry at the publication and wholesale distribution levels without doing injury to our freedom and without incurring the evils of censorship. Surely, the framers of our Constitution could not have intended these guaranties as a license for irresponsible publishers to contaminate the minds and morals of children for profit. For the most part, the storekeepers are blameless and helpless for they are at the mercy of the higher-ups. The custom in the trade calls for weekly shipments from the distributor of a full assortment of periodicals on consignment, with privilege of return; often the objectionable material is hidden within the pages, and the average retailer could spend half his workday in frustrating self-policing. Our State enforcement agencies stand read to assist these local merchants in cleaning up their stands where there has been intimidation by a distributor who insists on a tie-in, a gimmick employed at the higher level that compels acceptance of filth at the risk of a penalty of losing his supply of worthwhile, staple, and salable publications. (See ch. 392, Laws of 1953.)
In the absence of industry control, the flood of indecent literature will surely backfire, caught in the mesh of an indignant public, unwilling to buy the trash. The unrelentless surge of such a movement will encourage the retail dealers, no longer fearful of reprisals or sanctions ─ to return the trash to the wholesale distributors and, who, in return, will dump the mess right back from whence it originates, the irresponsible publisher. To hasten this process our State legislature is considering a law (assembly bill 401), based on the principle of our present statute that forbids the sale of cigarettes to a minor under 16. Interpretation of preventative legislation of this kind must always be dispassionate and reasonable and free from the clamor of zealots and would-be reformers. In this war of attrition the law of economic necessity will force a collapse of the unethical publisher, while building to even loftier heights the proud profession of a great and free press.
Our committee in Union has vigorously attacked the problem from several angles. In the legislative field we drafted and sponsored assembly bill 401, introduced by Frank Thompson, Jr., of Mercer County. This bill seeks to curb the sale of salacious, lascivious, and lurid literature at the retail and wholesale levels to minors under 16. We encouraged the incorporation under title 15 of the New Jersey News Dealers Association (nonprofit), which is a self-policing, self-censoring medium employed by newsdealers throughout the State to compel publishers to temper their business methods with better taste and cleaner consciences. In cooperation with the public relations committee of our bar association, your chairman has addressed the following organizations to date on this timely topic: Catholic War Veterans of Union County, at Linden; Knights of Columbus, at New Providence; Youth Guidance Council, at Rahway; Union County Grand Jurors' Association, at Elizabeth; Catholic Daughters of America, at Trenton; Holy Name Society, at Roselle; and a YMCA forum, in Summit.
Edward Cohn, Philip Donnelly, Joseph D. Epstein, J. Leroy Jordan, Lea Kaplowitz, Isabel Muirhead, Richard P. Muscatello, Sarah V. Needell, Daniel J. O'Hara, Milton Sevack, H. Douglas Stine, George R. Walsh, Clark McK. Whittemore, J. Jerome Kaplon, Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Kaplon, will you carry my best wishes back to the good people of Summit?
Mr. KAPLON. I certainly shall.
(The following statement was submitted by Mr. J. Jerome Kaplon at a later date and is incorporated in the record at this point.)
SUMMIT, N. J., June 9, 1954.
HERBERT W. BEASER,
Chief Counsel, United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, Washington, D. C.
DEAR Mr. BEASER: Will you please include the contents of this letter as part of my testimony and to be read into the record?
I want to express my formal appreciation to you and to the other members of the committee for asking me to testify last Friday in my dual capacity as chairman of the juvenile delinquency committee of the Union County Bar Association of New Jersey and as Governor Meyner's recent appointee as member of our juvenile delinquency study commission, created by joint resolution of our State legislature.
I admired your splendid handling of the questioning of the several witnesses that day, and was especially glad that the testimony brought out vividly the burning, controversial question: "If limited censorship applying only to children is the partial answer to the comic-book problem, will legislation, based on such a principle, do violence to the first amendment of our Constitution ─ the freedom of the press?"
It must be observed that the entire field of censorship involves the suppression of freedom. This precious heritage, guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution, must, at all costs, be held inviolate; but at the opposite pole it may be safely argued that the right to protect the murals of our youth is just as sacred as the right to protect the "freedom of the press," vouchsafed for us in the Bill of Rights. You will recall that I quoted the immortal words of the late Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in that connection, who, in a controversy involving freedom of speech said, "that the constitutional protection to say what we please does not give one the right to shout 'Fire' in a crowded theater."
We all abhor censorship and, therefore, encourage self-policing and voluntary censorship by the retail newsdealers. I am afraid that some publishers cannot be relied upon to do a satisfactory censorship job of their own; their operation is too big in this $100 million industry.
But, we can approach this problem through the back door, starting with the little retailer. The flood of indecent literature will surely "backfire," caught in the mesh of an indignant public, unwilling to buy trash. The relentless surge of such a movement will encourage the retailers, no longer fearful of reprisals or sanctions, to return the rot to the wholesale distributors and, who, in return, will dump the mess right back from whence it originates, the irresponsible publisher. Anticipating the squawk from these publishers, who, with one hand are greedily multiplying the fleshpots of their mass industry, while with the other hand are pleading for enforcement of freedom of the press privilege, the courts may very well be called upon to interpret this portion of the first amendment in terms of present day social conditions. Will our proposed law in New Jersey (assembly bill 401) stand up in such, a test? I can think of no better way of answering this challenge than by quoting from the late Justice Louis D. Brandeis, appearing on page 115 in The Words of Justice Brandeis, Edited by Solomon Goldman:
"Whether a law enacted in the exercise of the police power is just, subject to the charge of being unreasonable or arbitrary can ordinarily be determined only by a consideration of the contemporary conditions, social, industrial, and political, of the community to be effected thereby. Resort to such facts is necessary, among other things, in order to appreciate the evils sought to be remedied and the possible effects of the remedy proposed. Nearly all legislation involves a weighing of public needs as against private desires, and likewise a weighing of relative social values. Since government is not an exact science, prevailing public opinion concerning the evils and the remedy is among the important facts deserving consideration, particularly when the public conviction is both deep-seated and widespread and has been reached after deliberation."
I could not close my statement without expressing my deep appreciation on behalf of the lawyers of the Union County Bar Association, to the Elizabeth Daily Journal, and particularly to Mr. John Hall, editorial writer, and Miss Nadia Zagilka, special feature writer, whose recent revealing series of articles on juvenile delinquency has surcharged our citizens with determination to act. This great newspaper in our county of over 400,000 inhabitants, has given us yeoman service in editorial help and news releases over the past several months. The dozens of articles and the thousands of words that have been printed by this paper, in support of the work of the juvenile delinquency committee of the Union County Bar Association in this phase of its public-relation work; the encouragement and aid that were received in drafting legislation that finally found its mark in the halls of our legislature; the constant notices and reports of meetings of our committee who have addresses dozens of civic and social clubs and groups; the help given New Jersey News Dealers Association (a nonprofit corporation of this State) with publicity in the distribution of its decal and pledge card, speak well of an industry that contributes so much to the betterment of mankind. I would also like to echo similar sentiments of gratitude to Mr. Carl Hulett, the publisher of my hometown weekly, the Summit Herald.
Very truly yours,
J. JEROME KAPLON,
Chairman, Juvenile Delinquency Committee of the Union County Bar Association, and Member of Juvenile Delinquency Study Commission of New Jersey.
The CHAIRMAN. At this point, I wish to have entered into the record a group of articles appearing in the Hartford Courant. Let that be exhibit No. 33.
(The material referred to was marked "Exhibit No. 33," and reads as follows:)
EXHIBIT No. 33
[From the Hartford (Coon.) Courant]
This is the story of the campaign as told in Editor and Publisher magazine in their issue of April 3, 1954.
Because of the many requests we have had for more details about our now celebrated campaign against salacious and depraving "comic books" we have put the news stories and editorials in this booklet for your information. We feel that our efforts have started a "chain reaction" in our community which has resulted in a definite improvement in a very unhealthy situation. We hope that similar campaigns from coast to coast may react in stamping out this growing evil. I would like to pay special tribute to three members of the Courant staff ─ to Thomas B. Murphy, editorial writer, for the inspiration of the campaign, to Irving Kravsow for his excellent news stories and research and to William J. Clew, assistant managing editor, who supervised the operation.
JOHN R. RUTEMEYER,
President and Publisher.
News Story, February 14, 1954
DEPRAVITY FOR CHILDREN 10 CENTS PER COPY
By Irving M. Kravsow
Ten cents at your neighborhood drugstore or newsstand will buy your child a short course in murder, mayhem, robbery, rape, cannibalism, carnage, sex, sadism, and worse.
These are only a sample of the type of crimes and practices explained in detail with pictures in a variety of comic books being bought and read daily by countless children.
In this country, 65 million comic books are printed each month.
Some of the pictures and texts are so suggestive that it isn't possible to quote them in a family newspaper. Others are just soaked in gore with the characters mouthing phrases which would earn any youngster a spanking if uttered in the house.
T. E. Murphy, in his column Of Many Things, in the Courant was shocked to find his own youngsters reading a few of these comic books and asked the question, “Do you know what your children are reading?"
To find out, a reporter went to a section of the city where juvenile delinquents traveling singly and in gangs, have troubled the area in recent years.
With a pocketful of dimes, he visited most of the drugstores in the area to examine the types of comic books sold.
Walking into each drugstore, he asked the same question: "Do you have any comic books for children?"
"Indeed we do," was the answer every time and the druggist indicated either racks displaying the books or brought out stacks of the comic books from under the counter.
TALES OF VIOLENCE
The stores that kept the books under the counter weren't doing it because they felt the material in the books was unsuitable for children.
Several druggists told the reporter they kept the books under the counter because they didn't want the youngsters coming into the store, reading the books, then not buying them.
All the books had in common a penchant for violent death in every form imaginable. Many of the books dwelled in detail on various forms of insanity and stressed sadism.
Others were devoted to cannibalism with monsters in human form feasting on human bodies, usually the bodies of women dressed in such a way as to put the creators of historical fiction books covers to shame.
One magazine published by Farrell Comics, has for its cover a picture of a rotting corpse evading the clutching hand of a skeleton.
Inside is a story called, Bloody Mary. It opens with a picture of a father reading his newspaper in an easy chair while his daughter, Bloody Mary, a child of about 6, creeps up behind him with her jump rope fashioned into a noose. She apparently didn't succeed in strangling her father because the next panel shows her stealing cookies from a high shelf, dropping the jar, and getting a spanking from her mother.
Mary's mother, then lies down on a couch to take a nap and little Mary says to herself, "Go ahead, nap, you old bag. So you're tired, are you?"
HOW TO KILL
With that the youngster gets her trusty jump rope and strangles her mother with it, yelling all the time that she is killing the old woman, "Close your eyes. It's sleepy time."
When her father returns home, he finds Mary calmly reading Mother Goose while her mother's body is in the next room. When police come, Mary tells them her father killed her mother, then testifies in court, sending her father to the gallows. After showing a picture of the father hanging from the gallows it shows the child at an orphanage talking to a psychiatrist who finds out that the child is really a midget. Mary kills the psychiatrist to prevent him from talking and then burns his body.
The last scene shows the child being tucked into her crib by the kindly matrons who run the orphanage. They call her a sweet child and tell her she'll be adopted by some nice family soon.
The same magazine has a story called, One Very Wide Coffin, about a thin husband and a fat wife. The husband has an argument with his wife and says, "You're just a fat, lazy pig. All you do is eat, eat, eat."
He leaves his wife, goes to a mountain cabin and broods. "How can I kill her and stay out of the electric chair?" he says. "There must be a way, if I'm clever enough."
Then follows a detailed drawing showing exactly how a shotgun is rigged to fire when a door is opened. It's as good as a blueprint showing how to set a death trap to spring on a victim while the murderer is far away with a perfect alibi. Fate takes a hand, and the couple make up. The husband takes her to the cabin for a second honeymoon, forgetting he has set a death trap. When he opens the door to carry her over the threshold, both are killed.
Tiny Tot Publications publishes a comic book which is billed as a humorous comic magazine. The cover shows a fireplace decorated for Christmas with stocking hung from the mantle to receive gifts from Santa Claus.
It shows Santa's foot dangling in the fireplace an inch above a lethal bear steel trap while a young boy leers in anticipation of tearing Santa's leg off.
The first story is a parody on Mickey Spillane that is so suggestive, it would put some adult pulp magazines to shame. Another story in this Tiny Tot Publication tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood with a switch. The twist is that Little Red Riding Hood, in this story, is really a vampire.
The final story in this magazine is a reprint of the lovely Christmas poem, The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by gross and obscene drawings that defy description.
Atlas Publications presents a comic book that wallows in death and madness. The opening story is called Midnight In the Morgue, and is told in the second person, singular. It starts with a shooting and holdup-murder and by the time it ends, eight dead bodies are displayed in various positions.
The crucial scenes in this story are the ones in which the murderer becomes locked in the morgue by mistake and begins shooting at the dead bodies in the belief that the dead people have come back to life. There is one picture with text so disgusting it would spoil your breakfast if repeated. It ends with the killer embracing the corpse on a slab and babbling like an idiot.
The next story opens with a bunch of youngsters ganging up on a small boy and giving him a vicious beating, By the time the last page is reached, 14 persons die violent deaths.
A company called Superior Comic publishes one which has blood pouring from every page. It has one story about adultery and the murder of a husband for profit. Another about mass murder, bootlegging, lust, and revenge, and another about a judge who sentenced a murderer to die and is killed by the slayer's curse.
I. C. Publishing Co. has the slogan, "An Entertaining Comic." The first story in it is called Food for Thought, which shows a ghoul feasting on a rotted corpse and saying:
"Heh, heh, I see you're hungry for horror again. Well, rest assured. Your appetite will be satisfied. In fact, when you're through with this putrid periodical, you will have lost your appetite entirely. So don't just stand there drooling. Come in."
The story is about adultery and murder. The second story is about a man who drowns his best friend in order to steal his best friend's girl. The third features a homicidal maniac and his sister who are boiled to death in hot water. The final story in this one opens with a sadist torturing animals to death, then turns to murder with a butcher knife and an ax and ends with the killer being burned to death in a flaming car.
The record for the number of violent deaths in one issue probably goes to one published by Male Publishing Corp. Twenty persons meet violent deaths in one story alone while the other tales are well sprinkled with bodies and pungent language.
A comic published by Allen Hardy Associates, boasts, "three full-length horror tales." The cover shows a madman clutching a shotgun dripping blood in one hand and some blood-drenched money in the other. A corpse, its face shot away, lies in a pool of blood in the background. One of the stories is about a small boy who is eaten by a monster and another little boy who is sent to an insane asylum. Another story in this magazine is about a married man who falls in love with the vampire. The vampire kills his wife then kills him by drinking his blood.
The opening scene in a book by Classic Syndicates, Inc., shows the locker room of a university called "P. U." with the football team looking like thugs and morons, drinking whisky, smoking cigars, and cheating on examinations. The rest of the story tells how the studious pupils are fools and that only the cheaters, gamblers, football players, and other dishonest persons, succeed in college and the penalty for losing a football game is dismissal from school in disgrace and death at the hands of gamblers and crocks.
Another story in this book tells about a man who invents a potion to make himself invisible so he could "have fun" by tripping pedestrians, stealing from stores, and robbing a bank.
It contains another story called The Bull Thrower, which is pure sex. It is about a lady bull fighter and contains a raft of double entendres and suggestive pictures.
Horror isn't the only specialty of these books. Another type of comic book on the market is the love story in pictures.
Superior Comic publishes one which features these stores: I Was a Pickup Girl, Desperate Romance, Kisses of Forgiveness, and Together * * * Forever. All have the same theme of young girls defying their parents and running off with men. All end in marriage, however.
Charlton Comics Group, Inc., publishes a comic book which claims on its cover, "Thrilling Romances! Exciting! Pulse Quickening! Real Love Stories of Real People Told In Dramatic Picture Stories, Revelations You Will Never Forget."
Then there is the one published by Romantic Love Stories, Inc. The stories include, My Fatal Weakness, Flames Fed My Foolish Heart, Pickup Girl, The Curse of Being Misjudged, and My Undecided Soul.
These are just a sample of the hundreds of books sold each month in this city through newsstands and drugstores.
In one drugstore, where the reporter found the worst selection of all, he overheard the druggist talking to some children in the store. As the reporter leafed through the comic books, the druggist was reading a paper and saying:
"It's terrible. Everyday more people are getting killed or murdered."
Editorial, February 14, 1954
WHAT DO YOUR CHILDREN READ?
Do you know what your children are reading? If you have not made a check of their comic books lately, you may be surprised to find that their daily diet is made up of murder, mayhem, lust, sadism, necrophilia, depravity, and just plain filth.
Some of the comic books that have been dispensed in Hartford in recent weeks are as foul as anything the human mind can conceive Patricide, matricide, and every form of violence and crime are depicted, even to detailed drawings of how to murder a friend by remote control.
It is hard to believe that these products of the gold-plated sewers of New York are distributed in Hartford through the design of local merchants. No doubt they, like the majority of parents, are unaware of the literary horrors that are daily poisoning the minds of their child customers. Censorship is not necessary, although it might be salutary if some of these publishers were locked up for foisting obscenity on the public. Quiet words of disapproval from parents are enough to end effectively the torrent of filth that is daily pouring into the minds of our children.
For supporting evidence read the first of a series of articles by Irving Kravsow, In the Courant today. These will suggest the appropriate remedies.
News Story, February 15, 1954
PUBLIC TASTE, PROFIT USED TO JUSTIFY "HORROR" COMICS
(This is the second of a series of articles on the illustrated courses in murder, crime, and sex on sale at 10 cents a copy under the guise of comic books for children)
By Irving M. Kravsow
NEW YORK. ─ Certain comic-book publishers, under fire because their magazines glorify crime and feature sex, and sadism, justify it this way ─ they give the public what it wants.
If parents think these comic books are undesirable, let the parents take care of it, the publishers advise. Their products are for older teen-agers and young adults. If children read them, that's not the concern of the publishers, they say.
A few in the publishing field are less arrogant.
Attorney Henry M. Schultz, counsel for the National Association of Comic Book Publishers, declared the public must realize comic books are here to stay.
"But," he added, "the public must also realize there are both good and bad comic books and parents should direct their children to the good ones and away from the bad."
STATE PRINTS 40 PERCENT
Few persons outside the comic-book industry know how vast is the circulation of comic books, both good and bad. An executive of one of the largest comic-books printing firms in the Nation, located in Waterbury, Conn., said 65 million issues are printed each month.
Of these 65 million issues, more than 40 percent are printed in Connecticut. While it is virtually impossible to estimate how many of the 65 million copies are in the horror or crime classification, a look at the newsstands of the Nation shows the figure is staggering.
Schultz looked at samples of some of the comic books purchased by a Courant reporter and shook his head. "No decent person would ever try to defend these books," he said, "but they are only a part of the whole industry."
He said all parents should watch their own children's reading matter and guide youngsters away from unwholesome material. "There are enough good comics around to replace this filth," he said.
Schultz (a member of the New York Board of Education for many years as well as counsel to the large comic-book publishers) said the "big publishers try to police themselves, but the little companies won't cooperate."
As an example he cited one publisher, a nonpracticing attorney and doll manufacturer, who publishes horror comic books as a sideline "to pick up a few extra thousand dollars."
Profit is the ruling factor. Asked why large publishers don't throw out the horror line and concentrate on more wholesale material, Schultz said the big firms once did stop producing horror books.
What happened? "The bad ones still poured out of the smaller outfits and flooded the newsstands, cutting seriously into the sale of the good magazines. So publishers had to go back to producing horror comics in order to stay in business," Schultz said.
Many of the smaller companies had another version, however. Each agreed there are many undesirable comic books on sale in this country, but each pointed the finger at the other guy.
Stanley Morse, publisher of Gilmore magazines, described his products as "Mild." One of the stories published by Morse was I Killed Mary. This was the one denounced by T. E. Murphy in his Courant column, Of Many Things.
CHOPS GIRL WITH AX
I Killed Mary, tells the story of a youth who wants to do something big and daring so people will notice him. The boy chops up a girl with an ax to gain recognition, but when his parents won't believe he killed the girl, the youth hangs himself in a barn.
"I don't see anything wrong with this story," said Morse, as he fingered a copy of the magazine. "This story has a moral. It shows that crime doesn't pay."
"Is that the moral in the story?" Morse was asked.
"Well," he replied, "the boy kills the girl to gain recognition for a daring deed and nobody believes him. The crime was in vain. It didn't pay."
Morse then wanted to know: "Who's to say what is objectionable? What may be objectionable to one group may not be objectionable to another. If this type of story is objectionable, I won't publish this kind any more."
He said he published other than horror books but the horror magazines sell the best. He added his own children don't read horror books.
"It's not that I don't let them read horror books," he explained. "My kids just aren't interested."
He was shown some samples of books from other publishers that have been termed objectionable "Would you allow your children to read these if they wanted to?" be was asked.
"No," Morse replied.
William M. Gaines, managing editor of Entertaining Comics and Educational Comics, defended publication of horror magazines this way:
"You see the profits from books some people have termed objectionable allow us to produce educational comics."
Gaines leafed through the latest issue of two of his "humorous" comic books. “This issue," be said pointing to the Christmas edition of one, "has been banned in Boston. I don't see why. There's nothing wrong with it. It's a satire on various aspects of modern life such as radio and television programs, books, and life in general."
He admitted that portions of a story in the book concerning Christmas might offend religious groups, but said some of the offending phrases got by the eyes of the editor.
PROFIT AND ENTERTAINMENT
"We're like any other business," he declared. "We're interested in making a profit. Who isn't? But at the same time, we try to entertain our readers and also teach them."
He displayed some letters he received from critics whom be called "cranks." Gaines said he receives many more letters of praise than letters of condemnation.
One of the letters charged the firm with being subversive and trying to undermine the minds and morals of the youth of this Nation.
"That's ridiculous," Gaines said. "We try to entertain and educate. That's all there is to it. A lot of people have the idea we're a bunch of monsters who sit around drooling and dreaming up horror and filth. That's not true as you can see."
He looked around his spacious office which was decorated with framed paintings of characters from the horror books such as witches and ogres. "We have our story conferences here," he said.
We discuss horror stories and ideas, but when the conference is over, so are the thoughts and discussion. We don't take our work home with us," Gaines declared.
Gaines publishes 2 "humor" comic books, 1 of which has been banned In Boston; 3 horror comics and science fiction comic magazines and illustrated Bible stories in comic-book format.
BIBLE COMICS SELL SLOWLY
He said the Bible comics were published 10 years ago and since then have sold only 5 million copies. The price is 50 cents and 65 cents. His other comics are 10 cents and sell more than a million copies apiece a month.
He said horror comics help children because "the comics are a stepping stone to reading books. Children improve their vocabularies by reading comic books and learn things about other subjects."
Pressed for specification of "other subjects," he came up with "science."
The large Publishing companies have huge staffs grinding out drawings and copy in mass production. What they can't do, they get from free-lance writers and artists.
Most of the smaller companies deal exclusively with free-lance writers, then "farm" out drawings to free-lance artists, maintaining only editorial staffs to supervise and edit makeup of the magazines.
News Story, February 18, 1954
CONTENTS OF COMIC BOOKS APPALLING TO CIVIC LEADERS
(This is the third in a series of articles on the illustrated courses in murder, crime, and sex on sale at 10 cents a copy under the guise of comic books for children.)
By Irving M. Kravsow
Educators, religious leaders, and civic officials, outraged by certain comic books which glorify crime and feature sex and sadism, called upon parents to put some work into the bringing up of their children.
Attorney John J. Daly, president of the Hartford Board of Education, said he was "appalled" by the contents of some of these comic books. "There are wholesome comics on the market today," he said, "but it behoves us to be alert to the menace of those which tend to undermine our moral code, customs, and laws.
"The Courant," he said, "deserves to be commended for leading this long overdue crusade for clean comics. Now parents should he reminded as to the potential danger and maintain constant vigil to see to it that no depraved literature is allowed to enter their homes under the guise of being a comic book."
FATHER CONNELLY SEES DANGER
The Reverend James A. Connelly, assistant director of the archdiocesan schools, said "comic books of this nature weaken the standards of morality of the Nation. We have to build good and strong citizens. The wealth of our land is the children. Unless we guard that wealth, we will be in bad state."
Father Connelly said that children like stories of imagination, "but the trend in comic-books reading goes beyond the level of elementary-school children and reaches into the high school. Secondary-school teachers have become alarmed at this trend."
Father Connelly said that teachers are trying to develop an appreciation in the youngsters of good reading, of culture, and to build good vocabularies.
"Some children," he said, "don't go beyond the comic-books stage. The danger is obvious. Every parish priest is interested in the problem of evil comic books. We are trying to help."
The parents, he said, don't realize what is going on. "These comic books are very bad. They give children bad ideas and other perversions. The evil comic books are an insidious agent stunting the child's growth."
Father Connelly said the parents' duty is to take a constructive hand. "The child is the most precious possession of the parents and should not be allowed to become contaminated. The parent is the No. 1 educator of the child. The parents' responsibility is great."
CHURCH AWARE OF SITUATION
He said the church is aware of the danger of certain comic books and realizes the books "hold great potentialities of danger." More than 10 years ago, he said several Catholic periodicals started supplementing their pages with comic strips about the lives of saints, great persons in history, and inspirational true stories. The purpose was to "try to stem the tide of the evil comics," he said.
The strips were received very well by the readers, he said, and later they were published in comic-book form. These comic books, he said, integrate stories of biography for instruction, and entertainment and fiction. Some are even used in the schools with excellent results, he said.
"If each parent conscientiously and consistently did his duty and observed his children's activities and reading habits, we wouldn't have to worry," he said.
"Of course," Father Connelly added, "this means work on the part of the parents. The schools are trying but we only have the child about 5 hours each day."
PUBLIC SCHOOLS ALERT
The public schools here are also trying to combat the problem by attempting to instill in the children a desire for good literature, Attorney Daly said. Books in the school libraries are carefully selected, he said, and lists of recommended readings are prepared to assist students in selecting works in various fields.
"It would be extremely helpful if the parents would assist the schools in seeing to it that such recommended books were read by their children," Daly declared.
Rabbi Abraham J. Feldman, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Israel, after looking over some samples of the comic books described in the Courant article Sunday, said, "What can we say except the obvious * * * they are terrible. We need an educational campaign to shock the parents and the public in general into a realization of the kind of comic books being dished out."
Dr. Feldman declared that "parents should urge children to use the public libraries more. The libraries have fine juvenile departments."
RABBI FELDMAN ADVISES PARENTS
"But," Dr. Feldman added, "the parents should not just send their Children to the library and tell them to pick out some books. The parents should show the children that they are taking an interest in what the youngsters do. The parents should set a good example and go to the libraries with the children."
He offered this suggestion to parents whose children read the bad comic books: "Sit down with the child and explain why the books are not desirable. Don't just say, 'I forbid you to read these books.' That would only whet the appetite. Most people are decent people and the children will listen to intelligent reasoning."
Dr. Feldman declared that censorship is not the answer to the problem. "Censorship would kill one evil with another evil and I'm not sure which evil is greater," he said.
He said in addition to an educational campaign to awaken the parents, there should be an appeal to the distributors to participate in such a campaign. "It should be done by moral suasion," he added.
MRS. SANDERSON DISTURBED
Mrs. Harold Sanderson, director of Christian education, Greater Hartford Council of Churches, termed the comic books "appalling" and added that "the lethargy of the public toward the problem is terrible."
"I am very disturbed about these comic books that glorify crime," she said, "but I am more disturbed about the comic books which emphasize sex. The age group of the youngsters who read comic books," she said, "is the group that is just becoming interested in matters of sex. These unwholesome comics arouse the interest of the youngsters and send them out into the streets where they get involved in sex situations. This is especially true of children without good home backgrounds."
She said that parents should not "pass the buck for molding the child to the school or church. Too many parents neglect their responsibility to their children."
SUPERVISED LEISURE URGED
Mrs. Sanderson said the parents have the care of the children during most of the youngsters' leisure-time periods. It is during the leisure hours, she said, that the children read these comic books.
"Children are impressionable and mobile," she said. "They move around a lot during their leisure hours and have few demands on their time. The pre-adolescent children don't have much else to do so they read comic books."
She said if parents supervised the leisure time of their children and directed the youngsters' energies into constructive channels, the problem wouldn't be as difficult as it is and there would be less delinquency.
Editorial, February 18, 1954
CENSORSHIP OF COMICS IS NOT THE ANSWER
It is a little more difficult today than it was on Saturday to buy dirty comic books in Hartford. But If you will look behind the books with innocuous titles on display, you will find many gruesome tidbits still being peddled in downtown Hartford. After the disclosures in the Courant many persons have written or telephoned, asking what they can do to stem the filthy stream that flows from goldplated sewers of New York. Some have said flatly, "there ought to be a law." Others call for censorship.
Censorship is not the answer. Such laws, even though they spring from decent motives, can and often are used as bludgeons by people with more zeal than understanding. These tainted tidbits can be kept out of greater Hartford by the simple exercise of diligence. At present these filthy comic books are handled as a commodity by both the wholesalers and the retailers. Both the wholesalers and the great majority of retailers, particularly those in neighborhood stores might be loath to carry books if enough of their customers registered objections.
The natural channel through which such activities should flow are the parent-teachers associations. Sadly enough, at least one important official of this organization expressed an unwillingness to be quoted on the subject because it was "controversial." This is a rather unusual point of view, and presumably doesn't represent the opinion of the majority of this organization.
The churches can also continue to emphasize the responsibility of parents in knowing what their children are reading. There may be a few nitwits who do not care, but the majority of parents do, and their voices can be strong. It is hardly likely that this trade in poisoned literature will persist in the face of widespread public disapproval. That is the strongest weapon of all. Tell your magazine vendor just how you feel about these things.
If any store in Hartford was deliberately selling poisoned candy to small children, the public would be outraged. Yet by our apathy we are permitting our children to absorb some of the most outrageously immoral and degrading written material. As a community newspaper the Courant has performed its function to disclosing the facts. It is now up to the citizens of the community, through church groups, PTA, and similar organizations to carry on from here.
News Story, February 17, 1954
STATE AND CITY OFFICIALS WARN COMICS PUBLISHERS TO CLEAN UP
(This is the fourth and final article in a series on the illustrated courses in murder, crime, and sex on sale at 10 cents a copy under the guise of comic books for children.)
By Irving N. Kravsow
United States District Attorney Simon S. Cohen Tuesday warned publishers of comic books which glorify crime and feature sex and sadism to clean up or possibly be shut up.
State Police Commissioner John C. Kelly and Hartford Police Chief Michael S. Godfrey also warned publishers to clean house. Moreover, both demanded that parents take more interest in what their children are doing and reading and exert more parental control over their youngsters.
Joining the campaign for clean comics, Attorney Leo J. Parskey of the city council declared, "The publishers of these books should assume civic responsibility and police themselves or they will discover to their regret that in some areas, laws will be passed on censorship that would be unfortunate for them as well as the public in the long run."
Parskey added, "The publishers of these comics should have some concern for children and less concern for profits."
In his warning, United States District Attorney Cohen declared, "The publishers of these books had better wake up and clean their presses. While prosecuting and police agencies don't want to cross the line into controlled censorship, we can't sit idly by and allow this menace to continue."
He looked at some of the books described in the Courant series and declared "These evil books furnish blueprints for crime and in some cases show the criminals literally getting away with murder."
Cohen also scored apathetic parents for not caring or paying attention to what their children are reading or doing.
Case after case in his court, he said, involves youthful criminals. "In almost every case," Cohen declared, "the parents don't know when their child leaves home or when he returns. They don't seem to care what influences their children, whether it is books like these comics or evil companions."
He pointed out that comic books are involved in interstate commerce and come under Federal jurisdiction.
If publishers don't police themselves, public reaction will force prosecution. There is a definite line of demarcation between publication of filth and publication of clean literature," he warned.
Chief Godfrey declared, "Children are the citizens of tomorrow and must be protected from harmful influences. These comic books represent a very dangerous situation which should be corrected immediately."
Be said one of the major problems is the lack of parental guidance. "Some parents don't know where their children are or what the children are doing and care less," he commented.
CENSORSHIP SEEN DANGEROUS
Parskey, chairman of the city council's committee on crime and youth problems, said outright censorship is dangerous because it would put control in the hands of one person or body. Another danger of censorship, he said, is that the public would get a false sense of security.
With censorship, he said, the public would ignore the danger of books such as these, thinking that because there is a law, everything is all right.
What is needed to combat this problem, Parskey said, is an awakening of parental responsibility and discipline. "I think the churches should go into this matter as well as social and civic organizations with the aim of educating the parents to the danger of these comic books," he said.
Editorial, March 14, 1954
A TRUE CHAMPION OF HORROR COMICS
Not long ago, following the series of articles describing the offensive comic books being sold in Hartford, one publisher of comic books felt he had been dealt with unjustly and protested. In the interests of treating this publisher fairly it is well to give further details of his views about these so-called comic books. He is William M. Gaines, publisher of Entertaining Comics, and he expresses his view in the February issue of Writers' Digest.
There Mr. Gaines tells with considerable satisfaction that his comic books Mad are pushing 1 million circulation . He calls it a "sweet breath of fresh air" in the comic-book field because, among other things, it lampoons classical poetry. Then Mr. Gaines goes on to list his requirements in a plea for writers to contribute plots for his other magazines. He is frank. He says they love “walking corpse" stories. They will accept an occasional zombie or mummy. And he says they relish the "contest cruel," which is, of course, the story of sadism. He is anxious also to get crime stories in which the villain tries to get away with murder "and probably does," because, as Mr. Gaines observes, “virtue does not always have to triumph."
As the Senate Subcommittee To Investigate Comic Books is about to reopen its hearings on this subject, we suggest that Mr. Gaines would make an excellent witness for the defense. His stout endorsement of horror, murder, and of the theme that "crime does pay" might furnish just the kind of "fresh air" that he has been selling to the children of the United States at 10 cents a copy.
Editorial, March 30, 1954
ARE YOU A RED DUPE?
The Entertainment Comic Group of 225 Lafayette Street, New York, is among the worst offenders in a commercial group that makes money by selling immorality and vice to small children. These panderers to children specialize in vampirism, adultery, and cannibalism, have now come out with what should go down in history as one of the really stupid propaganda efforts in modern history.
In its frenzied defense of dirty comic books this company says, "The group most anxious to destroy comics are the Communists." Then it asks the question, "Are you a Red dupe?" The final admonition is as follows: "So the next time some Joker gets up at a PTA meeting or starts jabbering about the naughty comic books at your local candy store, give him the once-over. We're not saying he is a Communist. * * * He may not ever read the Daily Worker. It's just that he's swallowed the Red bait ─ hook, line, and sinker."
Thus do the sellers of literary sewage justify their profits from the debauch of youth. It may interest the various service groups, church organizations, and all other leading citizens who have come out against filthy comics to learn that Entertainment Comics considers them Red dupes.
There have been many stupid and silly red herrings in recent years but this attempt to justify profits from pornography by labelling opposition as "Communist" takes the cake or perhaps it is not just ordinary stupidity. It may be the kind that grows from arrogance. These peddlers have acted on the theory that the American people are a bunch of stupid oafs ─ and by our apathy we have confirmed that judgment. But the jig is up now for the panderers of dirty comic books, and this Red scare is a frantic rear-guard action from a discredited and soon-to-be-deactivated phase of publishing. Their end is in sight, and they know it.
News Story, April 22, 1954
SENATE COMIC BOOK PROBERS LEARN PUBLISHERS ATTEMPT AT CLEANUP FAILED
By Irving M. Kravsow
NEW YORK, April 12. ─ A United States subcommittee, probing comic books, was told here today that comic-book publishers tried to clean up their products In 1948 but so few lived up to a decency code that the attempt failed.
Attorney Henry E. Schultz, counsel for the Association of Comic Magazine Publishers, testified that 90 percent of the comic-book publishers in this country joined his association in 1948.
Today, he said, the organization has dwindled to 12 members, only 3 of which are comic-book publishers. "The association, I would say, is out of business and so is the code," Schultz declared.
The committee opened its 2-day hearings on comic books and their relation to juvenile delinquency and crime in the Federal building on Foley Square in front of a battery of television and newsreel cameras.
The committee heard internationally famed child psychiatrist Dr. Frederic Wertham declare "as long as crime and horror comic books are published, no American home is safe."
It listened to William Gaines, publisher of Entertaining Comics, say, "The only limitation on what I publish is what I consider good taste," after he told the committee that he was the founder of Horror Comics in this country and "I'm proud of the comics I publish."
Attorney Schultz submitted as evidence a copy of the decency code drafted by the Association of Comic Magazine Publishers. Both Senator Estes Kefauver, Democrat, of Tennessee, and Senator Robert C. Hendrickson, Republican, of New Jersey, chairman of the subcommittee, complimented Schultz for the code. Senator Kefauver declared: "if this code were followed by comic-book publishers, we wouldn't have this problem today."
CODE ROUGH FOR PUBLISHERS
Schultz testified that soon after the code was drafted and an "approved" seal was issued for books conforming to the code, many publishers quit the association.
He was asked if the publishers quit because of the code. Schultz replied, "I know of two that left for that specific reason and others I suspected left for the same thing."
He was asked to name the two who left because they didn't want to go along with the code. Schultz said, "One was Educational Comics, published by William Gaines, and the other was Avon."
He was shown a sample of a horror magazine with a cover showing a skeleton strangling a corpse. In large print on the cover, were the words, "Come Into My Coffin." The cover carried the seal of approval of the association.
Schultz said: "The seal is meaningless today. In fact, some publishers make up their own seals of approval and place them on their comic books."
GAINES READS STATEMENT
Gaines took the stand and read a brief prepared statement in which he said, "children are people too and are entitled to read what they wish."
Gaines, who was one of the publishers described in the Courant's exposé on comic books, was questioned about his latest book, Shock Suspense Stories.
In it is the Story of a 10-year-old girl, Lucy, who shoots her father, frames her mother and her mother's lover for the crime, sends both to the electric chair and gets away with it.
Associate counsel for the committee, H. W. Beaser, asked Gaines if he agreed with a psychiatrist who had testified earlier that the story of Lucy was harmful because it bred fears in the minds of foster children and because the child gets away with a horrible crime.
Gaines replied, "In this story the child leads a miserable life for six pages then emerges triumphant."
UNDER COMMITTEE FIRE
Senator Thomas C. Hennings, Jr. (Democrat, Missouri), declared, "She emerges triumphant by murdering her father and sending her mother and another to the electric chair."
Gaines replied, "But she emerges triumphant in the end."
"Do you have children of your own?" asked Senator Hennings.
"No," Gaines replied.
Senator Kefuaver showed Gaines a cover from a recent Gaines publication. It showed a head severed from the body. "Is this in good taste?" he asked.
"Yes," Gaines replied. "It would have been in bad taste if the head had been held higher to show the jagged neck dripping blood."
Senator Kefauver declared, "Blood is running from the mouth and the bloody ax is shown still dripping. Is that good taste?"
Gaines replied, "I think so."
1,500,000 BOOKS MONTHLY
In answer to questions from Senator Kefauver, Gaines testified his total circulation is 1,500,000 comic books a month with an estimated gross income of $80,000 a month.
Asked why his comic books were published under the names of five different companies, Gaines replied he didn't know. "That's the way I inherited the business from my father," he said.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Wertham told of case histories in which he found comic books a contributing factor in juvenile delinquency. He showed colored slides of pictures and texts from many crime and horror books and called for rigid Federal laws outlawing the sale of crime and horror books to anyone under 16 years of age.
He also said the comic-book publishers have applied a lot of pressure in an effort to block distribution of his latest book, Seduction of the Innocent, an exposé on comic books.
Other witnesses today were Richard Clendenen, director and chief investigator for the United States Senate Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency; Dr. Harris Peck, a child psychiatrist; Walt Kelly, president of the National Cartoonist Society and creator of Pogo; Milton Caniff, creator of Steve Canyon, and Joseph Musial, King Features education director. The cartoonists explained the role of comics in visual education and said members of the National Cartoonist Society are barred from drawing for comic magazines such as those submitted in evidence at the hearing.
The hearing will wind up here Thursday. Expected to testify are distributors, publishers, and business managers of comic-book firms.
News Story, April 23, 1954
CHILD STUDY BODY CHARGED WITH COMIC-BOOK DECEITS
By Irving M. Kravsow
NEW YORK, April 22. ─ Senator Estes Kefauver (Democrat, Tennessee) charged here today that the Child Study Association of America has deceived the public by presenting reports on comic books Without identifying the authors as being in the pay of comic-book publishers.
He made the accusation during the final day of the 2-day hearings of the United States Senate subcommittee investigating the comic-book industry.
The committee, headed by Senator Robert Hendrickson (Republican, New Jersey), heard a prominent psychiatrist testify she receives $150 a month from a comic-book publishing firm for her advice and admitted she hadn't seen the code of ethics used by that firm until the night before the hearing.
It also heard a comic-book publisher invoke the fifth amendment to the Constitution and refuse to testify on the ground, his testimony might incriminate him.
In addition, it heard the testimony under oath of the counsel for the News Dealers Association of Greater New York who declared flatly that tie-in sales are forcing the newsstand operators to sell comic books against their will.
Other developments included the statement by the committee's associate counsel, H. W. Beaser, after the hearings adjourned, that the Courant's series of articles on comic books was a tremendous help to the committee.
Beaser said the articles will be made part of the committee's record and said the Courant's series was used as the basis for the start of the congressional probe into the comic-book industry and its relationship to juvenile delinquency and crime.
Senator Kefauver's charges against the Child Study Association of America came during the testimony of Gunnar Dybwad, association executive director.
Senator Kefauver put in the record copies of reports issued by the association which had been submitted to the committee by comic-book publishers in defense of the industry.
He showed Dybwad one of the association's reports written by Josette Frank, an employee of the association. "Why don't you say on this report that Josette Frank is paid by the comic-book industry?" Kefauver asked.
"She doesn't work for the comic-book industry," Dybwad replied, "she is paid by a comic-book publisher. There is a difference."
PAID CHILD-STUDY REPORTS
Senator Kefauver then produced another report made by the Child Study Association of America authored by Mrs. Sidonie Gruenberg, a child-guidance expert.
"Mrs. Gruenberg wrote a very favorable article on comic books," Senator Kefauver declared, "and she too is in the pay of the comic-book publishers."
Dybwad replied that Mrs. Gruenberg is no longer in the employ of comic-book publishers.
Senator Kefauver replied, "Here are two people used by your association to evaluate comic books who are being paid by comic-book publishers. Do you think that's fair to the public?"
"Yes," replied Dybwad.
Senator Kefauver then declared, "I think that is traveling under false colors and is not fair to the public."
Kefauver named other prominent experts in the employ of the comic-book publishers including Dr. Lauretta Bender, senior psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital and professor of clinical psychiatry at New York University; Dr. S. Harcourt Peppard, of Newark, N. J., and Dr. W. D. Sones, of the University of Pittsburgh.
Kefauver identified Dr. Bender as a member of the advisory board of the Child Study Association of America. Dr. Bender testified that she receives $150 a month from National Comics, which publishes Superman, among others.
She said she is paid as a member of the firm's advisory board and her name appears in each issue along with the names of Josette Frank, Dr. Sones, and Dr. Peppard.
She said the board hadn't met in the past 6 months and that the $150 a month is for advice. Asked for an example, she cited an occasion when the comic-book firm asked her if she approved of the manufacture and sale of Superman costumes for children.
She said other experts on the advisory board of the comic-book firm are paid larger sums. Shown a copy of the code of ethics used by the firm, she said the first time she had seen it was the night before the hearing. She said a code she helped draft for the company a few years ago was not in use.
Invoking the fifth amendment was publisher Samuel Roth who said he is now out on bail after being arrested last week on charges of violating New York's indecent and obscene literature statutes and charges of conspiracy to violate the laws.
Alex Segal, president of Stravon Publication, denied under oath charges that he is now selling names of children who answer ads in his comic books to other firms. He said his firm sold lists of names in the past but stopped the practice last year.
Counsel Beaser declared that children would answer an innocent advertisement in a comic book and then start receiving quantities of mail advertising sex books. He said the committee has received many complaints about this from parents and that the Post Office Department and the committee are investigating the matter.
William Richter, counsel for the Newsdealers Association of Greater New York, charged the retailers are "forced to take bad comic books along with the good magazines." He said, however, that the dealers could return the magazines at the end of the month and then get their money back. "If they do this," he said, "they may find themselves not getting magazines they want, however."
The committee adjourned its hearings here and said it would reconvene them at a later date. Roth was ordered to remain under subpena by the committee.
Editorial, April 23, 1954
MEN ON TASTE
Unfortunately the Army-McCarthy hearings have tended to obscure the hearings on comic books being held by a Senate subcommittee. Easily the star of the show, it we use the word "star" quite loosely, is William Gaines. Mr. Gaines proudly lays claim to the paternity of horror comic books, and his contribution to the kiddies of America is some 2 million comic books a month. These are all in good taste though, as Mr. Gaines observes. And that is his yardstick of what not to print.
For example, one of his current books show a woman decapitated, with an ax-wielding man holding aloft the blonde head. This, said Mr. Gaines, was good, taste because, while blood oozed from the mouth and the ax was gory, the neck was not shown dripping blood. Mr. Gaines' sense of the fitness of things was also demonstrated in his defense of a story in which a small girl murders her father and sends her mother to the electric chair.
This unique contribution to the Nation's children was justified, said Mr. Gaines, because the child emerges triumphant. According to the Gaines' code of good taste, shooting daddy and sending mama to the chair are justified because the tiny tot's ambition to live in a nicer house is thereby justified.
Mr. Gaines may have disappointed some of his public. He arrived without the company of a complement of vampires or werewolves, with the usual number of fingers, and with only one head. Even though be does gross close to a million dollars a year from this dirty business, Mr. Gaines is a man to be pitied as well as censured. For if he sees nothing wrong in the literary sewage that he helps to create and distribute to small children, then he is indeed as strange as some of the creatures who stalk across the pages of his sardonically named Entertaining Comics. If one hopes for the elimination of these bad books, one might say that Gaines' loss would be the country's gain.
Editorial, April 24, 1954
SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT
The Senate investigation of comic books has resumed in New York. And the resumption of hearings on this important source of juvenile pollution was timed felicitously with the publication of a serious study, by a well-known psychiatrist, of these bad books for children.
Considering the kind of material that is blandly peddled by the harpies, it is to be hoped that the Senate committee will drag out into the open the individuals who are responsible for it. Who profits from these books? Who puts up the money to finance them? Why does each publication company issue books under a variety of names?
Putting your finger on those responsible for this stream of sewage is like trying to tab an energetic flea ─ and no offense to the flea intended. Only one so far discovered seems to be proud of his calling. The others, while willing to make money from fouling the minds of children, do not seem anxious to be identified with their publications. That is not surprising. Most poisoners are not anxious to announce their profession to the world.
The so-called comic book represents a greater medium of entertainment and education than most persons realize. The phenomenal rise of this industry indicates that the books fill a definite need among the intellectually undeveloped and the young. Unfortunately a bunch of literary ghouls have chiseled into the shadows of the industry, and have brought disrepute on the whole industry.
It must he repeated that the majority of comic books are harmless; some are amusing, others are educational. The purveyors of filth are in temporary retreat. That retreat can be turned into a rout if the investigating Senate committee will pinpoint the responsibility for the really bad stuff that is being published, and sold to children.
Then it is fair also to ask if the laws against obscenity apply only to books for adults. The majority of States, including Connecticut, have statutes banning the sale or distribution of obscene literature. Yet there have been few if any arrests or conviction, under this law. We do not want witch hunts, and the Senate investigating committee can do a great deal to avoid them, if it will cut straight to the heart of this problem: Find the men who are responsible for this national seduction of the innocent, and let the public get a good look at them.
News Story, April 25, 1954
SENATE COMICS PROBERS SPOTLIGHT NAME RENTALS
By Irving M. Kravsow
The United States Senate subcommittee investigating the comic-book industry, at its hearings in New York this week, turned the spotlight on a little-known phase of the comic-book business.
Associate Counsel H. W. Beaser of the subcommittee, declared that his staff, assisted by the Post Office Department, had been investigating the sale or rental of names and addresses of children.
One of the witnesses called upon to testify on the aspect of the industry, refused to testify on the grounds that his testimony might incriminate him.
Samuel Roth, out on bond In New York after being charged with violating the State's obscene and indecent literature laws, invoked the fifth amendment and refused to answer the committee's questions concerning where he got the names used on his mailing list.
CHILD MAILING LISTS RENTED
Another witness, publisher Alex Segal, was not connected with Roth. He was, however, questioned about the renting of children's names and addresses.
He said his firm, in the past, would rent out the names of children to mail-order firms, he said this practice was discontinued last year.
Beaser said the children would answer an innocent advertisement for pictures of birds or a water pistol.
The children would have to fill out a coupon and send it in to the comic-book publisher.
Beaser said some comic-book publishers would take the names and put them on a master list which was rented to other companies. This resulted, he said, in these children receiving in the mails, advertisements and literature selling sex books and other salacious material.
Beaser said his committee had received complaints about Segal's company. Segal replied, "these names are received through comic-book ads and are placed on stencils. By mistake, someone got the names of 4,000 children and rented them to a sex-book company. When we found out about the accident, we stopped renting names out."
DELVE INTO MULTIPRODUCTION
The congressional committee also tried to delve into the reasons why comic-book publishers produce books under a variety of company names.
Monroe Froehlich, Jr., business manager of Magazine Management Corp., said this is done for "advertising sales purposes." He did not elaborate.
Froehlich explained the corporate structure of his firm. Magazine Management Corp. is the parent organization of the Marvel Comic Book Co. which puts out 60 comic-book titles. It is also the sole owner of Atlas, a national distribution corporation which handles only the Magazine Management Corp. publications.
His firm, Froehlich said, owns stock in 35 publishing corporations. The average monthly print order for a comic book, he testified, is 350,000 copies.
He said his estimate of the total number of comic books printed in this country each month is "about 45 million."
425 TITLES PUBLISHED MONTHLY
Counsel Beaser asked Froehlich how many different comic book titles are published monthly and Froehlich answered, "about 425."
Beaser then did some simple multiplication and multiplied 425 titles by the average print order of 350,000 issues and came up with the staggering figure of 148,750,000 comic books a month.
The business manager said his company is a member of the Association of Comic Magazine Publishers and carried the association's seal of approval on its magazines.
Previously Attorney Henry Schultz, counsel for the association, testified that the seal was "meaningless."
Beaser held up a copy of one of the comic books published by Froehlich's company. Its cover showed a skeleton "mugging" a corpselike creature. In large print, it said, "Come Into My Coffin." Beaser also displayed enlarged photographs of some of the pictures and text contained in the comic book.
"Do you think this conforms to the code?" Counsel Beaser asked.
"You are taking it out of context and trying to judge the whole by four panels. I can't answer that question," Froehlich replied.
DEFENDS HORROR COMICS
Froehlich was asked why his company publishes horror and crime comics along with other comic books. He replied, "We're in the publishing business. If there's a demand for horror and crime comics, Why shouldn't we fill the demand. Why not ban automobiles because some people get killed in them?" he asked.
"The manufacturers put brakes on autos," Beaser declared.
Froehlich told the committee if it could be definitely proven that comic books harm children, his firm would not publish them.
How these comic books are distributed came under fire with the testimony of Attorney William Richter, counsel for the News Dealers Association of Greater New York.
TIE-IN SALES UNDER FIRE
He charged the distributors of forcing newsdealers to handle comic books through "tie-in sales." "The vendor gets magazines in one bundle tied together so securely that the newsdealer can't even inspect the merchandise," he said.
The vendor has to pay for the magazines and can't get a rebate for the magazines not sold unless they hold them for a month or two. He said most vendors in New York haven't room to store the undesirable books for a month or longer so are forced to display them for sale.
He said many vendors have reported that if they continue to send back comic books, they find they can't get good magazines.
"This practice is prevalent throughout the country," Richter declared. "The majority of the comic books on the newsstands today are outright trash and the newsdealers don't want to handle it," he added.
GAINES' "MAD" ATTACKED
Richter displayed a copy of the comic book, Mad, published by William Gaines, who bad testified on the opening day of the probe.
"How Gaines could sit here yesterday and justify his magazines is beyond comprehension" Richter said.
Holding an issue of Mad up to the television cameras, Richter said, "Magazines like this are worse than horror or crime comic books. These ridicule everything in a vicious and gruesome manner. They're demoralizing"
He asked the committee to consider passage of Federal laws outlawing magazine tie-in sales and pledged the aid of his association in helping draft such legislation.
The committee adjourned the hearings and announced it would study the evidence and testimony.
Editorial April 25, 1954
ANOTHER DIRTY FACET OF THE COMICS BUSINESS
The Senate subcommittee investigating the comic-book industry, and its relation to juvenile delinquency, has brought to light an interesting phase of this multi-million dollar business. The committee discovered that some comic-book publishers, not content to fill their pockets with dollars from the sale of depraved magazines, have found a way to make even more money by selling the names and addresses of children to mail-order firms.
This is the way it works. A child answers an advertisement in a comic book for something harmless like, for example, a book of bird pictures or a water pistol. The child's name is taken from the coupon sent in and placed on master lists. These lists are then rented to mail-order firms. And they in turn send the youngster pamphlets and circulars advertising, among other things, dirty pictures and books. One of the witnesses called before the committee last week when accused of this practice, refused to testify on the grounds that his answers might be self-incriminating. Another publisher testified that he rented his lists at one time, but stopped doing so because of many complaints from irate parents who found advertisements for sex books in their children's mail.
This is, of course, a little flea on the back of a big flea. And the greater part of the comic-book business, let us remember, is harmless. But it becomes more and more evident that the slimy fringe needs cleaning up.
The CHAIRMAN. The chairman wishes to announce that today's hearing does not terminate the subcommittee's investigation into the field of crime and horror comic books. We shall continue to collect on this subject matter in this area, and if necessary further hearings will be scheduled at a later date.
All data thus far presented, plus all future facts compiled, will be studied most carefully before the subcommittee draws up its conclusions and recommendations.
The subcommittee will issue a special report upon this subject at an appropriate time, or we may make the report a part of our final report.
I think I speak for the entire subcommittee when I say that any action on the part of the publishers of crime and horror comic books or upon the part of distributors, wholesalers, or dealers with reference to these materials which will tend to eliminate from production and sale, shall receive the acclaim of my colleagues and myself. A competent job of self-policing within the industry will achieve much.
We will adourn now until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.
(Thereupon, at 5 p. m., the subcommittee recessed, to reconvene at 10 a. m., Saturday, June 5, 1954.)
The Committee didn't come back for any more testimony. This was the end of the hearings.
In 1955, a Senate Interim Report was written by Senater Kefauver summerizing these hearings and what the Senate thought should be done about Crime and Horror Comics.