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MC 208

Ernst, Morris L. (Morris Leopold), 1888-1976. Papers of Morris Leopold Ernst, 1933-1937: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 208
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Morris L. (Morris Leopold) Ernst, 1888-1976
Title: Papers of Morris Leopold Ernst, 1933-1937
Date(s): 1933-1937
Quantity: .21 linear feet (1/2 file box)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, trial and appeal material, other legal papers, etc., of Morris Leopold Ernst, lawyer who represented physician Hannah Stone in a 1930s case about the importation of contraceptives.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 74-297
The papers of Morris L. Ernst were deposited in the Schlesinger Library in November 1974 by Madeline Gray.

Processing Information:

Processed: November 1974
By: Katherine Kraft

Access Restrictions:

Access. Originals closed; use digital images.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Morris Leopold Ernst as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Morris Leopold Ernst Papers, 1933-1937; item description, dates. MC 208, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.


This volume documents United States v. One Package of Pessaries, a suit which challenged the seizure by the United States Customs authorities in January 1933 of one package of pessaries sent from Japan to Dr. Hannah Stone for research. The government's case was based on Section 305 (a) of the Tariff Act of 1930 which prohibited the importation of contraceptive articles. Morris Ernst successfully argued the case for Dr. Stone before Judge Grover Moscowitz of the United States District Court of Southern New York. The government appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals in April, 1936. The Moscowitz decision was unanimously affirmed by Judges Augustus N. Hand, Learned Hand, and Thomas Swan. Judge Augustus Hand wrote the majority opinion (although Learned Hand concurred, he wrote a separate opinion expressing doubts as to the legal correctness of the decision), claiming that Section 305 and other laws like it originated in the Comstock Act of 1873, and that "Its design, in our opinion, was not to prevent the importation, sale or carriage by mail of things which might intelligently be employed by conscientious and competent physicians for the purpose of saving life or promoting the well-being of their patients...." In 1937, Morris L. Ernst and Harriet Pilpel wrote that, "The holding that a doctor may, notwithstanding the ban of a sixty year old statute, prescribe a contraceptive in the interests of life and health, symbolizes a notable victory."


This volume, which is Morris L. Ernst's record of the case, contains correspondence, legal papers, memoranda, briefs, questionnaires, trial and appeal material, articles, editorials, newsclippings, index and summary of facts. These items are either printed or typescript carbon copies.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Birth control--Law and legislation--United States
Greenbaum, Wolff and Ernst (New York, N.Y.)
Trials (Obscenity)
United States. Comstock Act of 1873
Pilpel, Harriet F.
Rose, Florence
Sanger, Margaret, 1879-1966
Stone, Hannah Mayer, 1893-1941