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HANNEGAN V. ESQUIRE, INC., 327 U. S. 146 (1946)

U.S. Supreme Court

Hannegan v. Esquire, Inc., 327 U.S. 146 (1946)

Hannegan v. Esquire, Inc.

No. 399

Argued January 11, 1946

Decided February 4, 1946

327 U.S. 146


1. Section 14 of the Classification Act of 1879 provides that, in order to be admitted as second class mail, a publication "must be originated and published for the dissemination of information of a public character, or devoted to literature, the sciences, arts . . ."

Held that, under this provision, the Postmaster General is without power to prescribe standards for the literature or the art which a mailable periodical (not obscene) disseminates, or to determine whether the contents of the periodical meet some standard of the public good or welfare. Pp. 327 U. S. 148, 327 U. S. 158.

2. A purpose on the part of Congress to grant the Postmaster General a power of censorship -- a power so abhorrent to our traditions -- is not lightly to be inferred. P. 327 U. S. 151.

3. When read in the context of the postal laws of which it is an integral part, the provisions of § 14 must be taken as establishing standards which relate to the format of the publication and to the nature of its contents, but not to their quality, worth, or value. P. 327 U. S. 152.

Page 327 U. S. 147

In that new, "literature" and the "arts" mean no more than productions which convey ideas by words, pictures, or drawings. P. 327 U. S. 153.

151 F.2d 49 affirmed.

In a suit by the respondent to enjoin the Postmaster General from carrying into effect an order revoking respondent's second class mail permit, the district court denied the injunction and dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed. 151 F.2d 49. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 708. Affirmed, p. 327 U. S. 159.

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