Masses Pub. Co. (plaintiff) is a publishing company in New York that puts out a monthly “revolutionary journal” called “The Masses.” The journal is critical of the United States’ involvement in World War I. The August issue contained several cartoons and stories of people exhibiting resistance towards the war effort. Patten, the postmaster of New York, prohibited distribution of the August issue in the mail on the ground that it violated the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917. Masses Pub. Co. sought a preliminary injunction against Patten in federal district court.