Sunday, October 26, 2014

                          The Trial Of "Michael Casey", 1896

    Russell Hunting. The man who was known on his hundreds of records as "Michael Casey" to much of the public in the 1890's. He was one of the major recording artists and salesmen of recording's first full decade, but what he is infamous for is experimenting with what he could get away with recording and sell to the public. He began recording in 1892, but not long in that year after he began recording for the Columbia phonograph company, he wanted to try recording nasty stories and ditties on brown cylinders of his. These "saucy" records quickly became a "hit" with coin arcade owners to have in their coin phonographs for 5 cents a play. He still remained on his Michael Casey records, but what was really the up-to-date records were his naughty records. His success remained with these off these records for a while, even if he used several pseudonyms(such as "Manly Tempest)when he made them. They remained very popular until early 1896 when Anthony Comstock and a crowd of his detectives heard about these records. They searched through all of the "Phonograph Parlors"(as they were called) and destroyed as many of these records as they could. They then needed to find the source of these records, who was making them. So in March of 1896, one of Comstock's detectives went to Hunting's home in Manhattan posing as an arcade owner who wanted to buy two of Hunting's "saucy" records. So the man arrived at Hunting's home and told him what he wanted, so Hunting agreed to make a few records from him. Hunting slid on the few brown cylinders and made two naughty records for him. Just after he recorded them the man grabbed him and hand cuffed Hunting and arrested him for violating Comstock's obscenity laws. Hunting was shocked and couldn't fathom going to prison for just experimenting with recording brown cylinders. A little while after a pretty hot trial for its time, Hunting was found guilty for the crime that the detective had blamed him for. Hunting spent three months in prison.
When he returned, he decided to start the magazine The Phonoscope in November 1896. This magazine was his until he went off to England in 1898. Hunting's success became fresh and worldwide when he worked abroad until about 1916.

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