From Pat Deveney's database:
Born into great poverty in upstate New York, Bennett had spent 13 years as a Shaker in his youth and then become a businessman specializing in selling seeds and quack nostrums before he and his wife, Mary, whom he had met during his Shaker period, began the Truth Seeker in September 1873. His main financial support in the early days was Morris Altman, the founder of the Altman department store. The journal was the most widely circulated free-thought journal of the era. Like many free thinkers, Bennett was easily enticed by spiritualism, and began noting the movement in his journal in 1875. Bennett was pursued by Anthony Comstock and jailed first in 1877 for selling his own "Open letter to Jesus Christ" and A.B. Bradford's "How do Marsupials Propagate their Kind"—both deemed obscene. When these charges were dismissed, he was again arrested in 1878 for selling Ezra Heywood's "Cupid's Yoke," and this time he went to jail for a year, a martyr, as he was the first to proclaim, for free speech. His reputation suffered greatly when his enemies—not reactionaries this time, but freethinkers like Colonel John C. Bundy of the Religio-Philosophical Journal who were in favor of progress and free thought but opposed to free love and obscenity - published an embarrassing series of intimidating letters he had sent to a young woman in his employ. On his release, Bennett sought refuge in a trip around the world. In Bombay he met and was the guest of Col. H.S. Olcott and Madam Blavatsky, and was singled out by the Theosophical Mahatmas as "one of our agents (unknown to himself) to carry out the scheme for the enfranchisement of Western thoughts from superstitious creeds." His impressions of Theosophy and Blavatsky were published in the Truth Seeker in 1882. NYPL.
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