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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 208

Papers of Morris Leopold Ernst, 1933-1937


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.


  • 1933-1937

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

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.


.21 linear feet (1/2 file box)

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.


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."

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

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

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
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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