Two Pariah Capitalists

    During the 1950s and early 60s, the most notorious pornographer on the Deuce was Edward Mishkin. He owned outright several stores (Harmony, Midget, the Little Book Exchange, Kingsley Book Shop, Esther, and Main Stem), and was silent partner in others.  His headquarters was Publisher’s Outlet; at least, that is where, in August 1962, a sailor from the Queen Mary arrived with a key to a Times Square IRT station locker. He asked for Eddie, who wasn't there. He gave the clerk the key and said “Here’s something for you from the boys in England.” The locker, Customs agents determined, contained twelve copies of a British magazine entitled Thrashed in Many Ways. Sadomasochistic and fetish books, photos and magazines were a facet of erotica which Times Square democratized. Before World War II, the material was available in booksellers’ back rooms, and of course to the wealthy, trusted customers of Manhattan’s high hat dealers. The Mishkins, the Browns, the Shapiros and the Finkelsteins made it available to the hoi polloi–through the mails, despite the risk of federal prosecution-- not just in bookstores. So did Lee Brewster at Lee’s Mardi Gras, a large second-floor store on 10th Ave. between 41st and 42nd.
Thus the swelling moral indignation from the clergy at Holy Cross Church and from Operation Yorkville, an influential East Side organization.

Paperback booklet, 70 pp., sold at Lee’s Mardi Gras Ent., 10th Ave between 41st and
42nd St, circa 1960

And not just from clergy. The Kefauver subcommittee investigating the effects of obscenity on juvenile delinquency subpoenaed Mishkin in 1955, as they did Irving Klaw, a publisher whose fetish photos included thousands of those of the era’s super model, Bettie Page. Both men’s photo sets and booklet-sized illustrated stories, with their themes of flagellation, bondage, transvestitism, and passive men forced into women’s clothing, were alleged to “get into the hands of small limited minds, and they . . . [get] worked up to a fever pitch, and some poor soul is the victim. Do You get what I am saying?” The words are those of those of the judge sentencing Mishkin for smuggling in those copies of Thrashed in Many Ways. 
   Mishkin, Klaw, and other booksellers to whom they distributed their materials, not only in New York but throughout the East Coast, did not get it.  In 1957, Miskin’s Nights of Horror booklets caused a major outbreak of indignation in Mayor Robert Wagner’s New York. 

 Nights of Horror, issue no. 9: Eternal Bondage, by Ron Winton

Five bookstores were forced to surrender their copies. In 1960, powerful D. A. Frank S. Hogan,whose boiling point regarding erotica was just above absolute zero, prepared a 198-count indictment against Mishkin, calling him “the largest producer and purveyor of pornographic material in the U. S.” After that, most of the retail outlets to which Mishkin and Klaw distributed may have restricted sales of the materials to trusted adult customers. Mishkin was convicted in 1962, but he persisted. Klaw did too, albeit only for a few more years.


One of the side-stapled, typewritten booklets used (with over 70 others) as evidence in People v. Mishkin, 1960 (over 70 were cited). This one is about flagellation and female domination; others featured lesbianism, bondage, and torture, and clothing fetishes. The prosecuting attorney argued that such material "deal[s] with the most vicious type of physical abuse in which human dignity is completely besmirched; all morality is done away with."

    It was probably unconstitutional after the 1957 “Roth test” to deny to the general populace books and pictures which might stimulate a few sociopaths to sex crimes.  But a Miskin and a Klaw did not get their backs up because of idealism. They were pornographers, that is, capitalists, albeit of the pariah variety. However small a portion of the general public indulged sadomasochistic fantasies, that subculture bought the material heavily. Thus Peggy’s Distress on Planet Venus, Arduous Figure Training at Bondhaven, Dance with the Dominant Whip, and Stud Broad. Mishkin instructed his hack writers that he wanted “an emphasis on beatings and fetishism and clothing,” on lesbian scenes, and on “sex in an abnormal and irregular fashion.”  The Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 1966, but a month later, before serving his prison sentence,  Eddie was back in business at Square books on 7th Avenue, where police found films on “female masochism” and novels such as Perverted Lust Slave.

598 Seventh Ave., circa late 1960s.  This was originally
the Liberty Book Shop, later named Forsythe Books.
Photo courtesy Guy Gonzales, New York City.