By Frederick S. Lane
A sweeping tale of the appropriate to privateness because it sped alongside colonial postal routes, telegraph wires, and today’s fiber-optic cables on a collision path with presidents and programmers, librarians and letter-writers.
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Extra resources for American Privacy: The 400-Year History of Our Most Contested Right
Shortly after the successful demonstration of the Washington-to-Baltimore line, the well-known Kentucky politician Henry Clay, who was running for president in 1844 as the nominee of the Whig party, urged Congress to take ownership of the telegraph system. “It is quite manifest it is destined to exert great influence on the business affairs of society,” he said. “In the hands of private individuals they will be able to monopolize intelligence and perform the greatest operations in commerce and other departments of business.
In the decade following Daguerre’s invention, literally millions of images were created by avid photographers. As the large number of surviving daguerreotypes clearly demonstrates, the idea of a relatively quick and comparatively inexpensive personal portrait was extremely compelling, and despite the initially long exposure times, plenty of people were willing to sit or stand still long enough to be photographed (often using painful-looking devices to hold their heads perfectly motionless). Predictably, some people wasted little time in using Daguerre’s equipment to push other boundaries of personal privacy: historians debate whether the first nude daguerreotypes were taken weeks or mere days after the technology was introduced.
Later that year, the YMCA formed a Committee for the Suppression of Vice (later incorporated as the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice) and hired Comstock at an annual salary of $3,000 (the princely equivalent of just over $82,000 in today’s dollars) to wage their battle for them. , 33 34 American Privacy in early 1873 to lobby for a more stringent federal antiobscenity law. Both he and the YMCA committee believed that the 1872 Post Office Act was badly flawed, in part because the law contained no prohibition of birth control and other sex aids, and in part because no provision was made for the search and seizure of obscene materials.
American Privacy: The 400-Year History of Our Most Contested Right by Frederick S. Lane