Drug Abuse at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
The things I find most fascinating about researching turn-of-the-century America are the parallels between life then and life now. Drug abuse is an interesting comparison. You may be shocked to discover that a higher percentage of Americans were drug addicts in 1900 than in 2010. As much as 5% of the adult population of the U.S. was addicted to drugs (versus about 5% of the adult population using illegal drugs today, which includes the use of non-addictive drugs.)
Why? One reason is the use of morphine. Going back for decades, it was the standard painkiller for virtually all medical procedures. In fact, by the 1880’s morphine addiction was known as the “soldier’s disease,” because of its prevalent use by Union doctors in the Civil War. (Since the South didn’t have the money to purchase morphine, Confederate veterans didn’t have the problem.)
Secondly, drugs were legal. All of them. You could go into a pharmacy and order up yourself some heroin, morphine, cocaine, etc., and so long as you didn’t look like an addict, they would sell it to you over the counter.
So who was your typical drug addict? Today we think of young males, right? In 1900 the typical drug addicts were older women, often living in rural areas. Why? Patent medicines. The companies producing these medicines were not required to disclose their contents until 1906, which is when the tide began to turn in the battle against addiction.
The names of a few of the many patent medicines containing opium (as much as 50% of the mix!) were:
Mother’s Helper – A few slugs of that stuff would no doubt calm both mother and child. And that’s why people got hooked. Most addiction in those days was accidental. The users didn’t even know they were taking opium—or morphine—or heroin—or cocaine—or some combination of them. What they did know was that when they took the medicine they felt better. (Probably a lot better.)
Detroit--Where Life is Worth Living - Part 3
In 1915, the Detroit Convention and Tourists' Bureau put out a lovely brochure touting the many highlights of the city. Part of the brochure covered industry.
Did you know that in 1915, Detroit was #1 in the United States in the production of:
Okay, enough with the stats—suffice it to say that Detroit was a city on the move!
Booklist has chosen The Detroit Electric Scheme as one of The Top Ten First Crime novels of the year! (See the full list here: http://www.booklistonline.com/ProductInfo.aspx?pid=4772921)
This has been a VERY GOOD WEEK!
Big News for me - St. Martin's has offered me another two-book contract! Will Anderson will have to survive his adventures for at least a few more years.
Books three and four will involve mental health in the early teens (think Will being committed to an asylum to try to find a killer) and women's suffrage, respectively. There were a lot of nasty things going on in asylums at this time, so I've got a lot of fodder for Will's trials and tribulations in that book. For the other, I've got politics and death threats to work with. The Michigan ballot for the 1912 presidential election contained a constitutional amendment to legalize the vote for women. The campaign was filled with dirty tricks and behind the scenes machinations, and ended with a recount, "lost" ballots, and a stolen election.
Both nice backdrops for mysteries, I think!
Motor City Shakedown is launching this September, book three will be published in fall 2012 and book four in fall 2013.
Okay, time to write some books!