THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES – THE HARRISON ACT: TURNING POINT IN AMERICA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH DRUGS

Also known as The Paper With The Really Long Title. 

INTRODUCTION

“Then this guy comes up to me and says he’s got something that’ll give me a wonderful kick… then he says, ‘You’re a good sport, ain’t you?… A good sport’ll try anything once…’” These words were spoken by Toughie Reed, a Californian teenager in the 1920s. Despite his tender age, Toughie was a murderer and a robber, sentenced to hang for his crimes. He was also a heroin addict. The boy’s interviewer, Lyman Beecher Stowe, describes how a drug peddler’s jabs at Toughie put him on the road to addiction and, eventually, crime in order to support his habit.

 Toughie’s story is not the only one of its kind. In 1918, a paper published in a journal of criminology studied 100 criminals brought into California’s San Quentin Penitentiary on drug-related charges, and revealed some shocking statistics:

  • 75% had gotten addicted before their 25th birthday.
  • 45% developed addictions between 16-20 years of age.
  • 82% took 5+ grams of morphine a day.

The drugs these men used – mainly opiates – were unavailable for legal purchase. Therefore, they had to turn to illegal methods to obtain the drugs. Since many earned far too little to pay what illegal drug dealers demanded, they often had to turn to thievery to acquire enough money for their drugs.

Yet opiates were not always illegal, and the users not always desperate criminals. In 1914, the drug trade had been mostly unregulated. People could easily secure opiates through physicians’ prescriptions or patent medicines such as Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, which contained one grain of morphine per ounce.

Among whites, the largest population of opiate addicts was comprised of middle-class women who developed addictions when physicians prescribed opiates as painkillers. There is no evidence to prove that these women posed any danger under the influence of drugs.

Most opium smokers were Chinese immigrants, who showed little evidence of criminal behavior. “… the Chinese constituted 8.8% of… all arrests while they were not less than 14% of the total adult male population of the city…” reported Mary Roberts Coolidge in her book on Chinese immigration at the time. “…Their offenses have always been gambling… and violation of fire and health ordinances…” Coolidge added. Thus, Chinese immigrants were not violent offenders.

What, then, sparked the events that led to Toughie’s tale? To the situation of the 100 criminals in San Quentin? The answer lies in a piece of legislation, passed in December 1914, that single-handedly changed the face of the American drug trade: the Harrison Act.

 

 BRENT, WRIGHT AND HARRISON

The Harrison Act’s foundations were laid by a Canadian transplant to America – the Reverend Charles Brent. In 1901, Brent was elected Bishop of the newly acquired Philippines. At the time, the Chinese population in Philippines was just under 1% of the total population: and with that 1% came opium. The Spanish had placed a tax on opium and restricted natives from purchasing it. However, many natives were flouting the rules and used opium as medicine – leading to addiction. This situation alarmed Brent, and, a year after he arrived, he joined a commission to investigate the use of opium in many Asian places, including the Philippines.

“In the Philippine Islands the practice of smoking opium… [was] imported by the Chinese…” the commission wrote. Despite Spanish law, the commission added, “[natives] were contaminated by the vice in all the provinces…” The report spurred President Roosevelt to commit to antinarcotic action. In 1909 an American delegation, headed by Brent, met with 13 other nations at the Shanghai Opium Commission.

One of Brent’s fellow commissioners was Dr. Hamilton Wright. Wright, an ambitious doctor married to the daughter of a powerful senator, was eager to embark on a political career. His opportunity came when he was asked to join the Shanghai Commission. As he put it, “I saw at a glance that it was bound to be a large… bit of work and I said that certainly I would like to be a member.”

For the rest of his life, Wright was a fervent crusader against narcotics and used any means possible to prove his case.

Immediately after joining the delegation, he began conducting surveys to deduce the extent of opium use in America. In 1908, he told the New York Times that there were 6,000 opium addicts in New York City, of which 5,000 were white. Considering that New York City had a population of 4.5 million at the time, 6,000 opium addicts – 0.1% of the population – hardly posed a serious problem. However, Wright pressed the issue, claiming that the Shanghai Commission would create a plan to combat addiction, both domestic and international.

Despite Wright’s promises, however, the Shanghai Commission achieved very little. Wright did his best to make other nations promise to enact drug control measures, but only China agreed. He also tried to propagate an investigation into anti-opium remedies, but this, too, was thwarted.

Dauntless, Wright returned to America and began pushing for a comprehensive piece of domestic drug-regulation legislation. His main motivation was geopolitical; he planned to coordinate another opium conference soon, and wanted to shape American policy into an example to inspire the rest of the world. After receiving approval from Secretary of State Knox, Wright drafted and found a sponsor for the Foster Bill, which was introduced in 1910.

Wright played on American fears of drugs in order to get the bill passed. Even though his own studies showed just 0.2% of the population was addicted to opiates, Wright alleged that physicians and pharmacists were liberally dispensing drugs to get people addicted. He also used drugs to exploit racial tensions in order to gain support. 

Due to opposition from pharmacists, the Foster Bill ultimately collapsed. Wright’s second political sojourn had been as unsuccessful as the first; but he didn’t give up. “Uncle Sam is the worst drug fiend in the world,” he claimed, saying that the American opium was placed under less restriction, and was therefore more dangerous.

In 1911, Wright attended the First International Opium Convention, where he made more headway than the last time in getting countries to promise domestic drug regulations. However, during the proceedings, Germany challenged the lack of American domestic legislation. This fueled Wright’s determination to get his antinarcotic bill passed – and, when the conference ended in January 1912, Wright returned to America ready to continue his efforts.

Since the Democrats were in control of the House, Wright asked a Democrat – Francis Burton Harrison, who had been present during the debate over the Foster Bill – to sponsor the new bill.

Pharmaceutical companies opposed the proposed measure. In October 1912, they created the National Drug Trade Conference (NDTC) and invited Harrison and Wright to discuss the bill. The meeting was disastrous, with Harrison leaving early for the theater and Wright storming out in a fury, refusing to listen to NDTC demands. Eventually, Harrison mediated the dispute and, in 1914, the Harrison Act – the first piece of American federal drug legislation – was approved by Congress and signed into action by President Wilson.

 

THE HARRISON ACT

The Harrison Act was greeted with enthusiasm by the antinarcotic movement driven by fears of foreign vices permeating American society. In 1875, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that “there are now existing… eight opium-smoking establishments kept by Chinese, for the exclusive use of white men and women… these places are… nightly resorted to by young men and women of respectable parentage… unless this most dangerous… dissipation can be stopped… there is great danger that it will become one of the prevalent vices of the city…”

The article clearly mentions that the dens catered to white Americans, and were run by Chinese – the implication is that drug use is an alien custom and therefore cannot be allowed to corrupt pure Americans.

This view extended not only to immigrants, but to blacks as well. The free availability of cheap drugs was distasteful to some Americans, who were afraid of the consequences of drug usage by blacks. Dr. Edward Huntington Williams played on these fears when he published an article on the matter in the New York Times. Cocaine-crazed blacks were terrorizing the South, he declared – according to him, cocaine made them superhumanly strong and invincible to bullets. These drug-crazed blacks would then, Williams said, indulge in killing sprees or rape helpless white women.

So when the Harrison Act was passed, it was seen not just as a simple regulation, but as a moralistic breakthrough – a shield against the foreign menaces that threatened American society.

The Harrison Act was, declared the preamble, “… an Act to provide for the registration of… and to impose a special tax on all persons who… deal in… opium or… their… derivatives…”.

The Harrison Act also included another section that would prove extremely important in the years following its passage. “To the dispensing… of any… drugs… by a physician… registered under this Act in the course of his professional practice only: That the physician… shall keep a record of all such drugs dispensed or distributed…” The intent of this passage was to force physicians to carefully write down each drug they prescribed, so that officials could keep track of the drug trade. However, the wording was interpreted in a radically different manner: “[a physician’s] professional practice only” was taken to imply that drugs could only be administered to patients to treat illness – not addiction. Therefore, it was illegal to give addicts opium purely for the purpose of alleviating withdrawal symptoms.

The Harrison Act then added another measure: “The… distributing of… drugs by a dealer to a consumer under… a written prescription issued by a physician… registered under this Act… such prescription shall be dated… and… signed by the physician… who shall have issued the same.” In other words, where a patient was once freely able to purchase drugs, they now had to have permission to do so. For addicts who had been denied permission due to the preceding clause, it was impossible to buy drugs legally.

Patent medicines were given special exemptions to appease pharmaceutical companies. Toward the end of the bill, an extra amendment was tacked on: “That the provisions of this Act shall not be construed to apply to the… distribution… of preparations… which do not contain more than 2 grains of opium, or more than 0.25… a grain of morphine, or more than 0.125… grain of heroin.”

 

EFFECTS OF THE HARRISON ACT

The Harrison Act was intended to curb addiction rates and stop the spread of drug-related crime. However, it ended up doing the exact opposite by creating a vicious cycle between addicts and dealers, with innocent citizens being caught in the middle.

As mentioned earlier, addicts could no longer obtain their fixes from their doctors; therefore, they went into withdrawal, a painful condition characterized by insomnia, stomach cramps and vomiting. The only thing on these addicts’ minds was getting their drug by any means possible. This was corroborated by the New York Medical Journal, which, in 1915, wrote that “…The immediate effects of the Harrison… law were… sporadic crimes of violence… due… to desperate efforts by addicts to obtain drugs, but occasionally to… sudden withdrawal…”

 

The addicts were becoming violent in order to obtain drugs; but who was supplying them? On June 22, 1915, the New York Times published an article on the arrest of Louis Fournier, an infirmary worker, on drug-peddling charges. Fournier had stolen cocaine and heroin, which were used legally as medicines, and planned to sell them. His motivation: “My friend told me that I could make a lot of money that way.”

 Like Fournier, others realized that they could easily benefit from the helpless addicts. If a drug is legal, its prices can be regulated – but once it becomes illegal, criminals can easily exploit addicts’ desperation with exorbitant prices. Another 1915 New York Times article mentions that “… whereas the trade price of heroin was $6.50 an ounce,” criminals had started selling it for $96 an ounce. Most addicts could not afford such prices, and had to turn criminal to pay their suppliers.

The situation worsened when the Mafia got into drug dealing. A New York Times article detailing the arrest of Mafia leader “Lucky” Luciano mentioned that “… [Luciano] was arrested… [in] 1923 for a drug law violation…” Eight years after the Harrison Act was passed, the Mafia was starting to enter the illicit drug business. Today, according to the FBI, “[One of] the major threats to American society posed by [the Mafia is] drug trafficking… They have been involved in heroin trafficking for decades.”

 In 2010, it was reported that American organized crime institutions make around $64 billion yearly from the illegal drug trade. America’s legal drug trade was barely worth more at $78 billion in 2010.

The vicious cycle between addicts and dealers was completed when criminals realized that in order to grow their profits, they must create more addicts, who would then depend on their illicit drug supplies. To do this, they latched onto victims, usually teenagers, and offered them free samples of drugs in order to get them addicted.

The Harrison Act also inadvertently helped create more addicts. The act stated that medicines with 0.125 grains of heroin would not be subject to regulation. 0.125 grains are equal to approximately 64.7 mg of heroin. Nowadays, people take 5-1500 mg to get high.

 Regular doses of a patent medicine containing 64.7 mg of heroin could easily create an addiction. Once this addiction strengthened, the user would need increasing amounts of heroin to achieve the same high. Patent medicines contained too little heroin for a hardened addict, and since heroin, under the Harrison Act, could not be prescribed to addicts, users had to resort to illegal methods to obtain it. Thus, the Harrison Act’s failure to address the matter of patent medicines was key to the creating a steady stream of customers for illegal drugs.

 

CONCLUSION

The architects of the Harrison Act intended to rid America of the drug vice; to ensure that Americans would not be governed by un-American influences such as Chinese opium and German heroin. Yet, they achieved something completely unintended – they created problems where there were none. The act spawned a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle of addicts and dealers whose violent crimes impact ordinary citizens every single day. In the decades since its passage, Americans have taken to drugs in larger numbers than ever before. Many of these drug addicts resort to crimes of all types to pay for their drug needs, and multibillion-dollar criminal enterprises based on these needs have sprung up. To combat the gang warfare that ensues between these syndicates, American taxpayers have coughed up $1 trillion dollars to pay for the “War on Drugs.”

The makers of the Harrison Act had good intentions. However, the piece of legislation they created became the single most important turning point in the history of American drugs. It is truly the law of unintended consequences.

 

 

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

PRIMARY SOURCES

*Note: Since I used the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy many times, as both a primary and secondary source, I will list its sponsoring organization here: it is sponsored by the DRCNet Online Library of Drug Policy, which is the largest compilation of drug-related resources on the Internet.

*Also used frequently is the New York Times, which is sponsored by none other than the New York Times.

 

1. Stowe, Lyman Beecher. Heroin Use in the 1920s. Opiates. Ed. Nancy Harris. Farmington Hills: Bonnie Szumki (Greenhaven), 2005. Print. History of Drugs.

The book cited – Opiates – is a collection of essays on the history of opiates, written by various professors and other authorities. I used an example from this paper, written in the 1920s by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s grandson, to illustrate the havoc drugs wreaked after the Harrison Act.

 

2. Stanley, L. L. “Morphinism and Crime.” Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 8 Jan. 1918, 749-56. Reproduced in the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

<http://druglibrary.net/schaffer/History/e1910/morhpinismandcrime.htm>.

This is an article published in 1918 that details the situation and background of a group of drug addicts in the San Quentin Penitentiary. I used statistics from this source to show how serious drug crime was after the Harrison Act.

 

3. Coolidge, Mary Roberts. Chinese Immigration. : Holt, 1909. Print.

This is a book on Chinese immigration to the United States. I used this source in order to learn more about crime rates among Chinese immigrants in the US, so that I could compare those levels to opium-smoking levels, and see if there is a correlation.

 

4. “CAREER OF THE REV. C. H. BRENT: Sketch of the Man Nominated as Missionary Bishop in the Philippines.” New York Times [New York City] 13 Oct. 1901: Print (accessed from the NY Times archives).

<http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9F0CE0DD1638E033A25750C1A9669D946097D6CF>.

This is a newspaper article that describes Charles Henry Brent after his election as Bishop of the Philippines. I used this to learn more about Reverend Brent and any possible attitudes he might have held toward morality – since drugs were usually considered immoral.

 

5. Carter, Major E. C., Jose Albert, and Right Reverend Charles H. Brent. Report of the Committee Appointed by the Philippine Commission to Investigate the Use of Opium and the Traffic Therein. Washington DC: Bureau of Insular Affairs, War Department, 1905. Print.

This is the report given by Brent, Carter and Albert on the opium situation in the Philippines. I read this report in order to understand how widespread opium addiction in the Philippines was, and how exactly the Philippine Commissioners reacted to this opium use.

 

6. “6,000 OPIUM USERS HERE: Dr. Hamilton Wright Thinks Five-Sixths of Them Are White.” New York Times [New York City] 1 Aug. 1908: Print (accessed from the NY Times archives).

<http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F50911FD395A17738DDDA80894D0405B888CF1D3>.

This is a newspaper article describing the results of one of Wright’s drug studies. I use this article in order to understand Wright’s argument as well as to illustrate his penchant for exaggeration regarding statistics.

 

7. “Report of the International opium commission, Shanghai, China, February 1 to February 26, 1909.” Feb. 1909. MS. Internet Archive.

<http://archive.org/stream/cu31924032583225/cu31924032583225_djvu.txt>.

This source is the full text of the report from the Shanghai Opium Commission. I read this source in order to understand Wright’s role in the conference, and what the conference’s outcomes were.

 

8. Marshall, Edward. “UNCLE SAM IS THE WORST DRUG FIEND IN THE WORLD.” New York Times [New York City] 12 Mar. 1911: Print (accessed from the NY Times archives).

<http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60C15F6385517738DDDAB0994DB405B818DF1D3>.

This article was a special in the New York Times that discussed Harrison’s view of opiates and his solution to the supposed problem they posed. I used this source to illustrate both this view and solution. I also used a photo of Dr. Wright that was taken from this source.

 

9. “The Proceedings Of The International Opium Conference At The Hague. I.” The British Medical Journal 2.2696 (1912): 503-05. Print.

This source is the full text of the First International Opium Conference at the Hague. I used this source in order to fully understand what happened during this conference, how it differed from the Shanghai Commission, and how much Wright’s role had changed between the two.

 

10. Fisher, George. MARRIED TO ALCOHOL: The Drug War‘s Moral Roots. 2007. Print.

This source describes how the War on Drugs originated. Although the book itself is a secondary source, I used a primary source quote (regarding Chinese opium dens and the influence they had on whites) that was reprinted in it.

11. Williams, Edward Huntington. “NEGRO COCAINE ‘FIENDS’ ARE A NEW SOUTHERN MENACE.” New York Times [New York City] 8 Feb. 1914: Print (accessed from the NY Times archives).

<http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9901E5D61F3BE633A2575BC0A9649C946596D6CF>.

This source is an article describing the supposed effects of cocaine on southern blacks. I used this source in order to show some of the common antinarcotic arguments of the time, and to illustrate the morality behind the passage of the Harrison Act.

 

12. Sixty-third Congress of the United States. “Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, 1914.” Drug Library. Schaffer Library of Drug Policy, Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

<http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/e1910/harrisonact.htm>.

This source is the full text of the Harrison Act. I used this source in order to understand what exactly the act intended to accomplish, as well as to highlight some of the sections in the act that would later prove harmful to its intent.

 

 13. Perez, Eric. “Opiate withdrawal.” Ed. David R. Eltz and David Zieve. MedLine Plus. US National Library of Medicine, 23 Jan 2012. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

<http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000949.htm>.

This source describes the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. I used this source in order to understand what motivation addicts had for behaving the way they did after the passage of the Harrison Act. This website is sponsored by the US National Library of Medicine.

 

14. Brecher, Edward M. “The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs: Chapter 8. The Harrison Narcotics Act.” Drug Library. Schaffer Library of Drug Policy, Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

<http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/cu/cu8.html>.

This source describes the Harrison Act, especially its effects. Although this paper itself is a secondary source, I used a primary-source quote – on the behavior of drug addicts after they had been deprived of drugs by the Harrison Act – that had been reprinted in it.

 

15. “SHOT DOWN IN DRUG ARREST – Prisoner Says He Got Cocaine As Infirmary Employee. New York Times [New York City] 22 June 1915: Print (accessed from the NY Times archives).

<http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F40A17F93E5F16738DDDAB0A94DE405B858DF1D3>.

This source describes an arrest made about six months after the Harrison Act passed; the defendant was attempting to sell stolen, illegal drugs to people. I used this source to show how and why many criminals got started in the drug business.

 

16. “POORER DRUG USERS IN PITIFUL PLIGHT.” New York Times [New York City] 15 Apr 1915: Print (accessed from the NY Times archives).

<http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/e1910/nyt04151915.htm>.

This source describes what problems impoverished addicts faced after the Harrison Act was passed. I used this source in order to corroborate the idea that drug prices increased dramatically, thus forcing addicts to become criminals in order to pay them.

 

17. “Italian Organized Crime: Overview.” FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Web. 7 Apr. 2013.

<http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/organizedcrime/italian_mafia>.

This source is an article that discusses the Italian Mafia and the activities it engages in. I used this source to support the claim that, even today, the Mafia runs much of the drug trafficking business in the United States. This website is sponsored by the FBI.

 

18. “Estimating illicit financial flows resulting from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crimes.” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Web. 6 Apr. 2013.

<http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/Studies/Illicit_financial_flows_2011_web.pdf>.

This source describes how and in what industries illegal money circulates the globe. I used this source in order to find reliable estimates on how much the illegal drug industry made in the US in 2010, so that I could compare this figure to the revenue generated by the legal drug industry in America. This report was created by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

 

19. “The Pharmaceutical Industry in the United States.” SelectUSA. SelectUSA, Web. 6 Apr. 2013.

<http://selectusa.commerce.gov/industry-snapshots/pharmaceutical-industry-united-states>.

This source describes the legal drug trade in the US. I used this source in order to find out how much revenue this trade generated in 2010, so I could compare it to the revenue generated by the illegal drug trade. This source is powered by SelectUSA, a federal association that promotes creating businesses in the US.

 

20. Metric Conversions. Metric Conversions, Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

<http://www.metric-conversions.org>.

This source is a conversions calculator, which I used to figure out how many milligrams 0.125 grains of heroin are equal to. It is powered by Wight Hat Ltd, a British company.

 

21. “Morphine (And Heroin).” Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

<http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/morphine.htm>.

This source talks about the effects of morphine and heroin on people. I used this source to figure out what daily dose of heroin people take to get high, so that I could compare it to the amount in patent medicines. This website is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

22. “Background on Drug Abuse.” Do Something. Do Something, Web. 5 Apr. 2013.

<http://www.dosomething.org/actnow/tipsandtools/background-drug-abuse>

This source talks about drug abuse, and what it is characterized by. I used this source to confirm that, as time passes, some people need higher and higher doses of a drug to get high – which I then used in my argument that the Harrison Act’s failure to address patent medicines ended up increasing the illegal drug trade. This website is sponsored by the Do Something organization, which helps provide suggestions for solutions to societal problems, especially ones that affect young people.

 

23. Trebach, Arnold S. Doctors Prescribe Heroin in the Early 1900s. Opiates. Ed. Nancy Harris. Farmington Hills: Bonnie Szumki (Greenhaven), 2005. Print. History of Drugs.

This source talks about the discovery of and initial reaction to heroin. I used this source in order to confirm that heroin was first used widely in German medicine, and therefore might be considered foreign by Americans.

 

24. Weirde. “Chinatown’s Opium Dens.” Shaping San Francisco’s Digital Archive. FoundSF, Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

<http://foundsf.org/index.php?title=Chinatown’s_Opium_Dens>.

This is a historical essay talking about opium dens in San Francisco’s Chinatown. I used a primary-source photo, of a Chinese opium den, as my first appendix, in order to illustrate what exactly antinarcotic forces were combatting. This source is sponsored by FoundSF, an organization that has compiled an Internet archive of photos and articles relating to San Francisco’s history.

 

25. “Francis Burton Harrison.” Encyclopedia Britannica (Online). Web.

<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/255986/Francis-Burton-Harrison>.

This is an Encyclopedia Britannica Online entry on Francis Burton Harrison. I used a primary-source photo, of Harrison himself, as my second appendix. This is sponsored by the online Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

26. Sledge, Matt. “The Drug War And Mass Incarceration By The Numbers.” Huffington Post. Huffington Post, 8 Apr. 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. 

<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/drug-war-mass-incarceration_n_3034310.html>.

This is an article from today’s Huffington Post on how much the drug war has cost us since it began. (I’m lucky I was on HuffPost this morning!) I used this source in my conclusion, in order to emphasize the detrimental effect of legislation like the Harrison Act on ordinary citizens.

 

SECONDARY SOURCES

1. “Patent Medicines and Miracle Cures: Original Documents from the Archives of the New York City Bar.” NYC Bar. New York City Bar, Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

<http://www.nycbar.org/library/featured-exhibitions/patent-medicines-and-miracle-cures>.

This website, sponsored by the New York City bar, depicts certain fraudulent medicines on sale in America from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. I used facts from this website about opiate-containing patent medicines in my paper.

 

2. Casey, Elaine. “HISTORY OF DRUG USE AND DRUG USERS IN THE UNITED STATES.” Drug Library. Schaffer Library of Drug Policy, Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

<http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/casey1.htm>.

This source describes the history of drugs and drug addiction in the United States from colonial days to modern times. It is from the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy, a compilation of international drug laws and papers from throughout history. I used this paper to gather facts on women who developed opium addictions before the Harrison Act.

 

3. Williams, Lisa. “Morphine: A Southern Lady’s Drug.” Lisa Williams – Home. Greenville County School District, Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

<http://teachers.greenville.k12.sc.us/sites/lacwilli/Shared%20Documents/extra%20credit%20docs/Morphine.pdf>.

This source describes the average morphine-addicted woman in the nineteenth century. I used this source to garner an understanding of what types of women became addicted and how they became addicted.

 

4. Courtwright, David T. Chinese Immigration Brings Opium Smoking to America in the Mid-1800s. Opiates. Ed. Nancy Harris. Farmington Hills: Bonnie Szumki (Greenhaven), 2005. Print. History of Drugs.

The book cited – Opiates – is a collection of essays on the history of opiates, written by various professors. I used this essay to learn more about the history of American opium smoking before the Harrison Act – specifically, when it started and who introduced it.

 

5. Chepesiuk, Ron. The War on Drugs: An International Encyclopedia. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 1999. Digital file.

This source is a book describing the history of the war on drugs around the world. I used this source to gather information on the Philippines opium trade, especially in regard to Chinese immigration and Spanish legislation, so that I could understand exactly why the 1905 opium commission was assembled.

 

6. Musto, David F. The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University, 1987. Print.

This source is a book talking about America’s relationship with drugs throughout history. I used this book many times throughout my paper, as it provides valuable information on the opium conferences, Wright, and the Harrison Act – especially Wright’s motivations for pressing the latter’s cause. Although I used this primarily as a secondary source, I do have a primary-source quote from it when talking about Wright’s political aspirations.

 

7. “NYC Total and Foreign-born Population 1790-2000.” NYC. New York City, Web. 7 Apr. 2013.

<http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/census/1790-2000_nyc_total_foreign_birth.pdf>.

This source shows New York City’s population, by decade, from 1790 to 2000. I use this source in order to calculate the percentage of opium addicts Wright estimated there are in New York City. This source is sponsored by the City of New York.

 

8. “Manhattan Municipal Building.” A View on Cities. A View on Cities, Web. 7 Apr. 2013.

<http://www.aviewoncities.com/nyc/municipalbuilding.htm>.

This source also mentions New York City’s population in 1908. I used the former source to confirm the number given in this article. This source is sponsored by A View on Cities, which is a tourism-tips website.

 

9. History. “Weekend at Woodrow’s.” History, Art & Archives. US House of Representatives, 28 Dec. 2012. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.

<http://history.house.gov/Blog/Detail/41898>.

This is a source that talks about the House of Representatives in 1912. I used this source in order to confirm that the House had a Democratic majority during this time, thus explaining the reason why Wright asked Harrison to sponsor his bill. This is sponsored by the US House of Representatives.

 

10. Schaffer, Clifford A. “Homicide Rates from 1900 to Present.” Drug Library. Schaffer Library of Drugs, Web. 6 Apr. 2013.

<http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/graphs/10.htm>.

This is a graph showing the trend in homicides over the last century, with drug laws labeled. I used this graph to show the sharp rise in homicide rates that occurred just after the passage of the Harrison Act.

 

11. “EXTRADITION STAY IS WON BY LUCIANO.” New York Times [New York City] 7 Apr. 1936: Print (accessed from the NY Times archives).

<http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F7081EFD345F167B93CAA9178FD85F428385F9>.

This article discusses the trial of Mafia leader Charles “Lucky” Luciano. I used this source to provide evidence for Luciano’s involvement in the drug business. Although this is by no means a modern source, it is secondary because the drug incident it mentioned is not the main focus of the article, but a reference to something that happened thirteen years earlier.

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About Aditi Ramaswamy

I am Aditi Ramaswamy... the History Hacker. I like history, and hacking. Occasionally, I attempt to hack history itself. Sometimes it even works. Oh, and in my free time I also double as the state of Virginia (we really need a state fruit).

2 thoughts on “THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES – THE HARRISON ACT: TURNING POINT IN AMERICA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH DRUGS

  1. This is a very powerful view and worth strong consideration. I also love how detailed, factual, and honest it was. The fact that the Harrison Act was even introduced without understanding intended and unintended consequences is something we as a society should pause and contemplate. I also hate to mention it, but, medicine has been a source for many unintended consequences with their practices, like with opiates. Whether it was an institution like medicine, a governing body like state legislators, or individuals like the politicians, we are people living in a society where we must face all possible consequences, if we are to avoid the problems we created of the past. This is the same learning process we “instill” in our children yet somehow we lose it as adults. Great article and thanks for the enlightening perspective!

    • Dear Tamara Rajaram,

      Thanks for commenting! Yeah – historically, medical practices HAVE wreaked quite a bit of havoc – such as every American physician’s ignoring Joseph Lister and his practice of hygiene and sterilization… something that eventually led to President Garfield’s death.

      ~Aditi Ramaswamy – The History Hacker

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