House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials

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The House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials, commonly known as the Gathings Committee, was a select committee of the United States House of Representatives which was active in 1952 and 1953. Representative Ezekiel C. Gathings, Democrat from Arkansas, was its chairman, appointed by Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. H. Ralph Burton was the committee's general counsel.

Representative Gathings was troubled by the contents of the pulp literature, paperback books and comic books he saw on local newsstands, worried that they would stimulate young people to commit rape. He therefore launched a Congressional investigation into the paperback book industry, becoming so zealous that he earned the mockery of some journalists.

The Committee began its investigation in 1952 and issued its report in 1953. The report alleged that 100 million obscene comic books were sold in the United States each month, that one in ten American men read girlie magazines, and that these were problems calling for censorship on the Federal level. The chief result of the report was to turn Gathings into a laughing stock.


  • "No Witch Hunt," Newsweek (7 July 1952): 80;
  • W. W. Wade, "Libraries and Intellectual Freedom," in Collier's 1954 Yearbook (New York: Collier, 1954), p. 334.
  • James Stuart Olson, "Gathings Committee", in Historical Dictionary of the 1950s, (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000; ISBN 0-313-30619-2), p. 109
  • David Hajdu, "The ten-cent plague",, accessed July 15, 2010
  • United States House of Representatives, Report of the Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials, 82d. Congress, House Report No. 2510 (Government Printing Office, 1953)