I’ve known for quite a while that there is a big hole in existing copies of newspapers for Owen County between the years 1890 and 1914. What I didn’t know was that this seems like it was a statewide condition. The Library will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary on November 11, 2011 and our Director wanted me to find newspaper stories, preferably local ones, from November 11, 1911 and surrounding months. I decided to check the counties surrounding us; Morgan, Monroe, Putnam, Clay, Greene and the State Capital, Indianapolis in Marion County for 1911 newspapers and then request the microfilm through interlibrary loan.
Much to my surprise the only 1911 newspapers discovered in all of these Counties were the Indiana Daily Student, Ellettsville, The Farm and the Martinsville Democrat. Not many local stories were found, the Democrat ran a short blurb about the dedication of the new Owen County Courthouse, which celebrated its Centennial with a Ball held earlier this year and a short piece on how Commissioners from three Counties, including Owen, went to inspect County Line Road in Quincy. In national news reporting largely centered on President Taft’s opposition to Free Trade with Canada and the possibility of alcohol prohibition becoming the law of the land.
I did run across an interesting article that ran in The Farm headlined: Drug Dens Are Found Near the Capital. Heading the story is a cartoon drawing of Uncle Sam confronting an Opium Demon, calling it, “Ye Varmit.” The story itself reports on how “Revenue officers and detectives in Washington raided four Chinese opium dens within 500 yards of the Capitol and confiscated about $8,000 worth of the drug.” The report goes on to state that, “They also secured evidence in the shape of hairpins, women’s clothing and shoes to indicate that the places were frequented by large numbers of women.” We are told that, “The raids were the beginning of a series that are planned by authorities who have been watching the activities of Chinese in Washington for months.”
The report goes on to inform us that recent raid in Los Angeles had exposed “a new system of concealing opium” when they discovered that ordinary boxes, complete with revenue stamps, supposedly containing candy, tea and ginseng actually contained opium.
The article notes that “Despite the prohibitionary law of 1909 which makes it illegal to bring into the United States smoking opium,” the habit was still prevalent in the United States, “to an alarming extent and is finding new victims largely in the white population.”
The article states that opium was being smuggled into the United States across the border from Canada and then down the Pacific coast. The report says that in 1910 over 400,000 pounds of opium was imported into this country for medicinal purposes and that an estimated 100,000 pounds were successfully smuggled in while another estimated 10,000 pounds were “manufactured annually from crude opium.” The article goes on to inform us that over that past two years over 250,000 pounds of illegal opium had been seized by law enforcement.
The article ends by telling us that, “These figures represent a decrease in the amount of smoking opium used, but they do not show another effect of the law – the increased use of cocaine, morphine and other opium derivatives. For as the drug victims have found opium harder to obtain, they have turned to cocaine and morphine.”
The United States had to wait another eight years to come under the iron grip of the 18th Amendment and despite the grand folly that resulted from that mass experiment in government control the United States we continue to pursue a course of “war” against drugs rather than a policy of harm reduction while it almost seems quaint and nostalgic to be worried about the Chinese bringing opium into Washington considering the activities in Washington in which the Chinese are currently engaged which, if anyone is watching at all, they are quick to look the other way from.