The influence of culture on drug use post WWII

For the readings Jazz Joints and Junk and the Oral history of Narcotic Use, we see the culture that surrounds drug use in the mid-twentieth century. These readings give two very interesting and distinct insights based on the nature of the sources. These readings were assigned together and lead to a discussion of how access and culture lead to an increase in drug use. How geography and exposure were some of the leading causes to use, despite what the public believed. Drug use was a facet of the culture but, not the dominating aspect. 

The chapter from Jazz Joints and Junk is a secondary source that looked at different studies that looked at the drug culture at the time. The author spends half the chapter discussing marijuana use and the other half on opioid use. Both in relation to jazz clubs and other similar social spheres. The author explained how the government was afraid of an increase in marijuana usage because they thought it caused violence. This chapter looked at both scientific and sociological research done on marijuana use. They concluded that despite the fears of Mayor LaGuardia marijuana use did not increase violence and was not widely exposed to young adolescents. That the social scene of going to tea pads was more prevalent than anything else. It was a place to socialize and wind down a night rather than a drug that caused violent behavior. The fact that it was secret, and you needed to know someone to gain access is what added to the appeal. The culture surrounding it is what drew people in rather than the drug use itself. In the second half of the chapter, the author discusses the rise of heroin use in jazz clubs. The overlap between musicians and dealers. That while not all jazz musicians were dealers they did all have exposure to the drugs and some needed to get high to perform. The idea that the music was more entrancing when in an elevated stated. 

The reading of the Oral Histories of Narcotic Use is a primary source that really showcased the way individuals interacted with opioid use. There is only so much information observation research can garner, so having first-hand tellings of the experience allows for a view that isn’t tainted by the bias that drugs are inherently bad. This reading showed that drug use happened to people from different walks of life but it was primarily through exposure. That none of these people sought drug use, but rather it was an aspect of their lifestyle. That as well as it focused that no two users were the same, that their way of interacting with the drug was shaped by the culture and price. How when we think of heroin users we assume they all shoot up, but many users fear this because of the dangers of skin popping. The use of needles was because it made it cheaper because you could use less. It showed that addiction could be a part of someone’s life, a part that most of the world is oblivious to. 

Both of these readings showed how drug use was intertwined with certain culture, mostly it was meant to enhance entertainment. We saw this clearly in the Jazz and Junk reading, “ the music itself also played a role in the use of narcotics. Some musicians used heroin to help them play, while others used it to come down from playing”. This was also clear in the Lotty oral history because she explained how she was working in clubs and girls would get dressed up in silk nightgowns to get high and dance. That the use of drugs was not expected, but it supported the idea that if it is there people will partake. This was seen in the police study discussed in Jazz and Junk that it was offered like drinks were to patrons of tea rooms, that it was okay to decline. However, due to the level of secrecy involved in drug use the mystery and risk are what adds to the intrigue. This optimizes that drug use was a culture because it was a place to socialize, and brought people together over the shared idea of engaging in something illicit.

My biggest question would be if we took the intrigue of secrecy that dealing illicit drugs has would drug use go down? From my understanding, the draw of tea pads was that not all were welcomed, that it became an act that bonded a certain demographic that is normally shunned by society. So, to engage in an act that was also deemed taboo by society was almost an act of defiance. That if they were going to be categorized as other they may as well partake in deviant behavior.

Omission of ‘Coping Theory’ or Medicinal Theory’ in Present Day Discussion of Youth Substance Abuse

Our examination of the evolution of drug use over the course of US history has provided a plethora of rationales for different drug usages. Many of these rationales consider the social anxieties plaguing the country at the time in addition to means of physical and economic access. In examining how history recalls these occurrences, I hope to shed light on the current discussion of modern day drug use as it pertains to youth indulgence in marijuana and alcohol. 

‘The Hidden Epidemic: Opiate Addiction and Cocaine Use in the South,’ and ‘Medical Theories of Opiate Addictions Aetiology and their Relationship to Addicts Perceived Social Position’ walk through the social circumstances that may have influenced Americans’ use of opiates. ‘Hidden Epidemic’ acknowledges that rampant endemic disease such as cholera and diarrhea and widespread injury in the south as a result of Civil War casualties created an ideal atmosphere for individuals to use opium for their pain relieving effects. We see here historians providing medical reasoning for the use of opium. ‘Hidden Epidemic’ also highlights the changing social climate, particularly as it relates to the degenerate social status of plantation owners, as necessitating a drug that would numb emotional pain with a specific notion to ‘pervasive depression.’ Rather than attributing physical pain with drug use, historians recognize and thus validate emotional pain. On the other hand, cocaine use amongst blacks was explained by their need to remain awake for the long hours they worked. The source is unclear about whether blacks were introduced to cocaine by their bosses, or took the initiative themselves to indulge. Nevertheless, the source aims to hypothesize the external circumstances that could have promoted and maintained an interest in drugs to ultimately explain the difference in drug use across racial groups. 

‘Medical Theories’  dissects similar motivations for opiate drug use as it aims to draw correlations between the shift in demographic opiate abuse and medical practitioners’ perspectives of addiction and potential treatment. This secondary source analyzes a number of primary sources in the forms of medical articles to explain numerous theories. One such theory, coping theory, hypothesized that many white affluent businessmen utilized opiates to cope with the rigors of civilized life and demands of their work, particularly to assist with ‘completing their tasks and helping them fall asleep.’ Similar to Hidden Epidemic, this source acknowledges that opiates may have been used to ‘assuage physical or emotional difficulties.’ These perspectives however changed as the demographic which most abused opiates shifted to lower class minorities. In the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, physicians began to label addiction as an innate degeneracy, meaning that individuals with addictions inherited this mental defect and could not be cured. This comes at a time when primarily working, lower class whites were abusing opiates. Much later, in the 1960’s, we see the rise of communicable disease theory to describe heroin addiction as being sourced from exposure to host, agent, and environment. This theory is truly the first indication of drug abuse justified as a means of social relating. Here the physical and emotional necessities that prompted the earlier use of opiates is eliminated. We can understand this concept by reflecting on the role of alcohol in ‘The Alcohol Republic.’ Rorabaugh describes drinking as a very social occurrence with the establishment of gentlemen’s clubs, the prevalence of drinking at celebrations, and the association of the American Revolution with local taverns. It was clear that alcohol at the time was very much a part of the culture and so, external justifications for its indulgence was unnecessary. 

We can juxtapose these discussions with the perspectives that dominate the discussion on youth marijuana and alcohol abuse today. The general consensus is that teens indulge in marijuana use as a result of peer pressure and the glorification of the drug in music videos and other media forms. In fact, the rise of the term ‘social drinker’ is indicative of the manner in which many perceive youth to partake in substance abuse. Why is it that modern day purveyors of this topic fail to discuss the possible emotional or physical justifications of marijuana use. Both secondary sources discussed include references to primary source indicating that even at the time, the justifications for opiate abuse were recognized. With this information, we can not say that ‘time’ is needed for historians to realize the true meaning behind youth indulgence in marijuana. 

Despite a plethora of evidence suggesting marijuana can be used to treat menstrual pain, headaches, cancer related pain and other very general and common anxieties, this has been largely ignored by individuals who hold strong opposition against the use of marijuana. Similarly, despite significant scientific research attributing red wine and other types of alcohol to healthy heart activity, the primary discussion of alcohol use in youth revolves around social drinking or peer pressure. Perhaps as suggested by ‘Medical Theories,’ the particular race and class of those youth individuals indulging in marijuana has a large influence over this discussion…

Race Relations and Social Locations: In the Opium Den and Smack Heroin

In In the Opium Den by Anthony W. Lee, the piece focuses first on the importance of the image that photographer Isaiah West Taber and painter Xavier Martinez captured of an opium den in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1901, and more broadly, the story behind the photo, detailing the intricacies of the racial dynamics, policing and criminality, and the culture of opium smoking. This article discusses the “why” behind the negative perception of opium smoking and thus the ensuing criminalization of opium in the United States. Smoking opium was characterized as a Chinese phenomena, and because of anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States, this drug was deemed a particular threat to society by association. Lee describes the irony in that opium was viewed as a Western practice by those in China, yet in the United States, it was inextricably linked to the Chinese community and viewed as “exotic.” The mixed sense of fascination and repulsion with opium dens and smoking opium in Chinatown by non-Chinese people was seemingly bound in the colonialist mindset of the designation of Chinese culture as “oriental” (175) and thus the “other” or different from the West, which Lee discusses in the article. 

I would argue though, that if one was reading Lee’s piece without any other knowledge of opium smoking or drug use at the time, that they would most likely, and logically so, draw the conclusion that the only people who smoked opium during this time period were Chinese, with few exceptions, as the information presented in the article only focuses on the Chinese population. While the Chinese population did account for a large portion of users depending on the time period, this was also an inflated stereotype, and we know from other sources, such as Courtwright’s The Hidden Epidemic and Cooper’s Medical Theories of opiate addiction’s aetiology…, that other demographics heavily used opiates, specifically a large population of Southern whites, and it is important to highlight this fact as well as to make sure to not reinforce generalizations or misinformations about a group. 

This theme of racism and a racial group separated from the dominant culture through drug use can also be seen in the chapter “Jazz Joints and Junk” in Eric Schneider’s Smack Heroin and the American City, with a predominantly African American presence in the jazz scene in New York City during the time period, and therefore, involved with the culture of marijuana and heroin use. However, while the chapter does choose to include the information about the New York Academy of Medicine’s study of prisoners and their reactions to marijuana for example, I question why he then does not address the racial motivations behind the continued criminalization of marijuana even though the studies found that it was “of little medical concern; it was nonaddictive, and contrary to popular belief and official claims, it did not promote aggressive behavior.” (19). It is impossible to ignore the racial motivations behind the “war on drugs” (see the photo below) and I think that it would have been interesting and powerful for the author to draw this connection and speak more about it, as was done in In the Opium Den

Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930-1962, addressing Congress in support of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

To briefly return to In the Opium Den, this article suggests a way in which opium dens were used by the Chinese as a sort of cultural space which promoted an escape from the bounds of Western society and oppression. This sense of safety, relief, and culture effectively promoted the use of opium both within the Chinese population, and was seen as enticing to non-Chinese users, effectively fostering a pattern of drug use based on the promise of a certain experience. I found this to be very similar to the chapter “Jazz Joints and Junk” in Eric Schneider’s Smack Heroin and the American City, as Schneider also focuses on the importance of the role of physical and social settings in the creation of subcultures that promote the use of recreational substances, specifically in the case of marijuana and heroin use in the jazz scene in New York City in the 1930s and 1940s, and as a greater theme. The large part of the chapter is focused on descriptions of the community and inner workings of the dynamic of the jazz and bebop culture and how this fueled drug use and culture. Schneider describes the rejection of mainstream culture that jazz and bebop embraced and that by bonding as a central community, they were able to elevate their music with heroin, affirm that they were “cool,” and fans or starting musicians could aspire to be like their idols, many of whom did heroin.

In the video to the right, author Johann Hari speaks about the intense policing of Billie Holiday because of her heroin use, and he claims Harry Anslinger had a personal vendetta against her. I think that this clip is interesting because it reinforces the idea that people of color and areas with high populations of people of color are highly surveilled and policed, as was seen in this chapter from the fact that in Cregan’s studies for example, she “wanted to see if rumors of adolescent marijuana use, particularly among African American teenagers, were true.” (21). This mindset of entering into studies clouded by expectations of your results and focusing only on one group based at least partially on racial stereotypes calls into question the validity of the overall findings. Additionally, in the chapter, the policing of the jazz scene is described as essentially ineffective and the sense is that the musicians, fans, and other participants were able to create this vibrant subculture where marijuana, and later, heroin was easily available due to the centrality of Times Square and the many busy clubs on “swing street” and cafeterias where dealers would openly sell after the clubs closed. Seeing these two different accounts where Hari describes a more strict version of events and policing whereas Schneider describes the culture as being a “rejection of the square world” (28) and a seemingly free place removed from the bounds of mainstream society and order, including being able to avoid the law most of the time, leaves me to wonder which depiction is more accurate.  

In terms of In the Opium Den and Smack Heroin and the American City, I think that both pieces are helpful, and offer different information and contexts depending on what information someone is looking for. For example, “Jazz Joints and Junk” is more useful in providing information about the importance of a physical space and community for the development of a subculture which fosters drug use, as this was what the article was mainly focused on. As a secondary source piece it had interesting information about the medical research studies on prisoners in New York City, the analysis of the “thick description” (19) of Cregan’s investigation, as well as a lot of useful information about New York City in terms of the geography and locations of important sites, and perhaps most importantly, rich descriptions about the people from the time period and what it would have been like on a daily basis. In the Opium Den uses the primary source of a photograph to discuss how this picture helped to break down the assumptions surrounding opium dens. This piece also references drug history and theory to a degree and discusses the history of Chinese drug history in relation to the United States. 

Motivations for Drug Control in pre-World War I America

By: Garrett Canterbury

Believe it or not, the use, possession, transportation, and consumption of drugs were all once legal in America. However, over time, economic interests, racism, and moralistic motivators all combined to start the era of American narcotic control. In his book The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control, David Musto examines these motivators and factors that transformed America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Narcotic regulation started at the state and local levels in order to curb growing addiction rates (primarily of cocaine and opium). He writes, “State and municipal laws generally required cocaine or morphine to be ordered on a physician’s prescription, which then had to be retained for perhaps a year for inspection. The laws had one great loophole: the patent medicine manufacturers repeatedly obtained exemptions for certain quantities of narcotics in proprietary medicines (Musto 9). Even in the early 1900s, states and localities, before the federal government, recognized and attempted to combat iatrogenic narcotic addiction and abuse—a scenario that has repeated itself multiple times in more modern American history (SEE opioid crisis of 21st century).

Some of the primary motivators for the federal Harrison Narcotic Tax Act of 1914 and others of the era was just that—tax. With imperial America rising on the world stage and a World War looming, America needed cash to beef up its military and foreign influence abilities and to spur its economy at home.

On a more subliminal level, however, these narcotic controls were motivated by race, especially stemming from the Jim Crow south. As Musto writes, “If cocaine was a spur to violence against whites in the South, as was generally believed by whites, then reaction against its users made sense. The fear of the cocainized black coincided with the peak of lynchings, legal segregation, and voting laws all designed to remove political and social power from him” (Musto 7).  

Another minority group targeted by narcotic control—albeit for a different drug—were the Chinese. In his analysis of the Chinese opium dens, Anthony Lee notes that “While the existence of opium dens was common knowledge—newspapers wrote about them, city ordinances targeted them, medical investigators tried to have them shut down, tourists and flâneurs sought them out as leisure distractions, illustrators brought forth a slew of images of them—they were not so easily entered as in previous decades” (Lee 1). Drawing on a largely staged photograph of a Mexican-American pretending to be a Chinese man smoking opium, Lee characterizes the Chinese opium den as located in a sort of cultural purgatory—not embraced by native Chinese and certainly disliked by the average American. As a result, legislation like the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 and the ban on opium smoking in 1909 served to quell the prevalence of these opium dens.

One final source that supports the claim that regulation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries actually mitigated usage is the graph on page nine of Rorabaugh’s The Alcoholic Republic (reprinted below). From the graph it is clear that the annual consumption of alcohol decreased abruptly and dramatically after the ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919. When the 18th was repealed by the 21st in 1933, we see a spike in alcohol consumption, which eventually surpasses pre-prohibition levels. Thus, it is fair to conclude that the temperance movement and prohibition (aka government regulation) were the chief factors in precipitating this decline, and with the threat of legal punishment rescinded, consumption rates returned to and eclipsed “normal.”

Online Source Here

As sources, Musto’s 300-page comprehensive book, Rorabaugh’s book, and Lee’s short paper are decidedly different: Musto and draws on a variety of primary, secondary, and tertiary historical sources (as evidenced by his notes section), Rorabaugh takes more of a data-driven approach, while Lee critically contextualizes the primary source photograph. All three sources, however, draw some of the same conclusions: government regulations, while sometimes effective, carry social costs and unintended consequences that must (or at least should) be weighed before legislation is enacted—legislation that may or may not be effective. As Lee puts it “No amount of prodding could push the [opium] smoker out of his or her dream; no amount of legal hectoring seemed to deter him or her from pursuing it” (Lee 4).  

It is worth noting one important fact: it is entirely unknown how the history of America would have changed without these pieces of legislation, if at all. For better or for worse, America transitioned from a pseudo-libertarian outlook on drugs and alcohol into an era where virtually everything was at one time outlawed and public support for federal control was at an all-time high (SEE 18th Amendment). America’s pendulum of control continues to swing back and forth today: from the dichotomy of marijuana legalization/decriminalization to the crackdown on tobacco vapes, the era of modern substance control can learn a lot from its sister period nearly a century ago.  

Assessing the Impact of Addict Identity

By Théo Davis

Emily Remus’ “Tippling Ladies and the Making of Consumer Culture, Gender and Public Space in Fin-de-Siècle Chicago” and Hannah Cooper’s “Medical Theories of Opiate Addiction’s Aetiology and Their Relationship to Addicts’ Perceived Social Position in the United States: a Historical Analysis” present two compelling, albeit very different, analyses of how the perception of marginalized groups consuming drugs shifts society’s view of said drugs. Cooper’s adherence to the scientific method, compared to Remus’ linear narrative, paired with Cooper’s more profound and effective relation to overarching sociological theories make for a more useful historical analysis.

When reading Hannah Cooper’s article published in the International Journal of Drug Policy (with a respectable impact factor of 4.244), immediately apparent is its loyalty to the scientific method, from the section structure to the quantitative methods. Cooper establishes a solid foundation through Critical Race Theory, Social Constructionism Theory, and other scientific papers, before reinforcing internal validity with random sampling and robust methods for operationalizing medical professionals’ aetiology and prognosis of opiate addicts. Most impressively, Cooper’s results reinforce critical race theory and implore current day researchers and medical professionals to critically self-evaluate how their perception of a drug’s users distorts how they view a drug, its causes, and its impacts.

This analysis’ strengths are rooted in the scientific method. While this method remains the “gold standard” in many fields of academic research, its adoption within the field of history has been sporadic, as issues with data availability render many questions hopelessly unanswerable. Further, even with the scientific method, questions always remain, such as how truly representative the Indux Medicus, from which these sample was drawn, is, and how the results vary in different regions of the United States with differing demographics of addicts..

In contrast, Emily Remus’ analysis adopts a more narrative structure; presenting a linear series of arguments, and retaining a thesis. The paper was published in the Journal of American History, which carries a measly impact factor of .684. This is worth considering, but is not detrimental to the paper’s validity itself. More worrying is the absence of opposing views or arguments to address inevitable concerns. The overarching argument appears both convenient and too broad in scope.

Despite this, Remus’ argument is compelling, proposing that Chicago’s unique environment, paired with the rising purchasing power and heightening cultural influence of monied women led to radical emerging forms of female pleasure-seeking, such as expanded autonomy for public drinking and greater political activity. Chicago is convincingly established as the laboratory of urban modernism and the center of American progressivism. Similarly, Remus assures with ample citations that the market began to tailor to female pleasure-seeking and cultural cachet as it had never before. Remus concludes that Tippling Ladies presented the amalgamation of modernizing gender roles and America’s culture of consumption, antagonizing opponents of both.

Both of these analyses wrangle with the perception of marginalized groups consuming drugs and how society shifts its view of the drug as a result. Cooper demonstrates that medical professionals’ aetiology and prognosis of addiction shifts depending on the perceived identity of the addicts. As opiate addicts shifted from being primarily affluent and white to being primarily poorer Americans of color, the perceived causes of addiction shifted from external to internal and the nature of condition from curable to incurable. Remus likewise argues that fear and discomfort with expanding female pleasure-seeking contributed to male villainization of Tippling Ladies and support for the Temperance Movement. As the Temperance Movement grew, support largely divided along gender lines.

I argue the discrepancy in each article’s strength also lies with how each author relates their analysis to a greater sociological perspective. Where Remus romanticizes a narrative of feminist empowerment by affluent white women, Cooper demonstrates an ever-evolving systematic prejudice of poorer, less white, Americans. Cooper explains how drugs, and how the medical profession observes them, reinforces existing unequal power structures. Remus, meanwhile, fails to significantly investigate the broader social implications, leaving the reader with questions such as; did monied women empower themselves through expanded pleasure-seeking or was this “empowerment” only a tool for men and capitalism to ever-further exploit women?

Both articles, to different effects, promote greater ideas; of shifting modern gender codes and growing consumerism, and of Critical Race Theory. Thanks to the scientific method, Cooper provides more effective support for the later, going so far as to present a topical recommendation to those in the medical profession today. The comparison of these two articles leaves us with profound questions as well. Should the scientific process play a larger role in historical analyses? Assuming there is inevitable bias within both, is a scientifically valid random sample more accurate than a specialized historian who aggregates?

The “Drug Problem”

by Hope Chang

Few could dispute that drug use has been and continues to be controversial – particularly in the United States. From 1920-1933, the government implemented a nationwide constitutional ban on alcohol. Citizens of the 1960s experienced the rise of a counterculture heavily associated with psychedelic use. Today, our headlines are constantly bombarded with discussion of marijuana legalization. Substances – what their effects are, who uses them, how they are used – have consistently been a moralized topic of heated debate and are deeply influenced by their contemporaneous public perceptions. The central arguments in both Cooper’s “Medical theories of opiate addiction’s etiology and their relationship to addicts’ perceived social position in the United States: an historical analysis” and Becker’s “Drugs: What Are They?” operate under the assumption that drug policies and the perceptions of drugs are somewhat arbitrary, in that they often are more reflective of their social contexts than their pharmacological makeups.  However, despite this similarity, both authors diverge in their methods of inquiry and ultimately in their key takeaways on how to address the American “drug problem”.

                  In “Medical theories of opiate addiction’s etiology and their relationship to addicts’ perceived social position in the United States: an historical analysis”, Cooper attempts to explore the relationship between health professional’s theories of the causes of opiate addiction and the general public’s perceptions of the opiate addict’s race/ethnicity, social class and gender in two time periods: 1880-1920 and 1955-1975. Cooper acknowledges that drug-related laws and policies do not only relate to inequitable social relations, but often contribute to and perpetuate them. She guides her exploration through two frameworks: Firstly, the social construction of knowledge, which posits that all knowledge (including scientific knowledge) is produced socially, and thus reflects the social contexts from which it was produced. Secondly, critical race theory, which postulates that the dominant social group – in this case, wealthy whites – which establishes and perpetuates unequal racial/ethnic relations, does so to maintain their material and social gain. In “Drugs: What Are They?”, it could be argued that Becker also operates under these two frameworks, even if it is never explicitly stated. Becker acknowledges the presence of a real “drug problem” in the US but argues that it has been dealt with and conceptualized wrongly. He states that instead of defining substance use as a problematic human behavior that must be addressed through police force, we should be treating the phenomenon as a “semantic problem”.  He emphasizes that categories such as “drugs”, “food” or “medicine” are not pharmacological categories which accurately reflect the chemical makeup of a substance, but rather decided upon by a small group of people with enough power (i.e. the State) to elect what substances are proper or improper. Ultimately, Becker alludes that drug policies often rest on the arbitrary classification of substances and thus we must redefine this initial (mis)classification to adequately address problems surrounding their use. Although Becker concentrates on the role of the government in unjustly creating drug policies, from Cooper’s critical race theory perspective, one could argue that the government is in many ways synonymous to the dominant social group given that it is primarily made up of older, white, wealthy men. In both articles, then, Cooper and Becker are in agreeance that unequal power structures have an inherent and formidable influence on drug policies.

Cooper and Becker both concentrate on the social perceptions of substances and how these perceptions affect policies and users. Cooper utilizes qualitative methods to explore her hypothesis that changes in the perceived racial/ethnic, class, and gender demographics of addicts at least partially contribute to the development of medical theories surrounding opiate addiction. She retrospectively meta-analyzes primary source medical articles from two specific time frames, selecting from a stratified random sample of all the appropriate studies published in medical journals. Additionally, Cooper provides a plethora of other studies to support her claims throughout. Conversely, although Becker also cites other studies as evidence, he does so far more sparsely. Ultimately, most of his claims seemingly arise from his own logic and remain unsubstantiated, providing only two references at the end of his article. In this realm, Becker’s article falls short in comparison to Cooper’s. Although Becker’s arguments may be more stimulating in some regards, he ultimately lacks the evidence to truly prove them and as a result his future directions are quite vague and unactionable. Altogether, Cooper’s article clearly stands out in its rigorous and scientific methods. Cooper and Becker operate under similar frameworks in discussing drug use in the US – they both recognize the possible negative implications of drug use while also emphasizing that its surrounding policies can oftentimes be biased andeven arbitrary. However, Cooper’s article ultimately stands out in its rigorous methods and its explicit key takeaway that present day researchers should be critical when studying the causes of addiction, remaining mindful of the ways that their biases could not only present itself in their research but the ways in which their research could perpetuate social inequities.

The Importance of Place in Drug Culture:

Tippling Ladies and Consumerism in Late 19th Century Chicago and Drug Abuse in Post-War New York City

By Shreeja Patel

In “Tippling Ladies and the Making of Consumer Culture: Gender and Public Space in Fin-de-Siećle Chicago,” Dr. Emily Remus describes how modernism and the socio-political climate of the end of the 19th century gave rise to public disdain for women consuming alcohol in commercial public spaces. These women, referred to as “lady tipplers,” were distinct from other women at the time because they typically came from wealthy families and therefore had disposable income to spend on booze. Remus claims that public outcry was in response to new forms of female consumerism, demonstrated by the advent of new commercial public spaces in Chicago like tearooms and reserved spaces in luxury hotels designed to attract these women and their wealth. Furthermore, she emphasizes that the concept of women drinking in public radically opposed conventional social norms for women at the time. Overall, Remus suggests that Chicago’s “tippling ladies” gained a sense of mobility into spaces previously dominated by men by patronizing feminized commercial public spaces and that opposition to this practice was a reflection of public disapproval of pleasure-seeking consumerism in women.  

In “Jazz Joints and Junk,” Dr. Eric C. Schneider discusses the importance of place in the emergence of drug subculture in post-World War II New York City. He contextualizes this countercultural movement by discussing Mayor Laguardia’s alarm at drug use in the city and the coinciding regulatory measures taken by the federal government to combat marijuana and opioid—namely the Harrison and Marijuana Tax Acts of the 1930s. However, Schneider’s main argument rests in the idea that pushback against marijuana use was not due to the disruption caused by drug users but instead largely driven by the “social setting in which marijuana smoking occurred” (Schneider, 22). He claims that prohibitory measures were aimed at unearthing a shrouded culture of marijuana use in Harlem. With respect to opium use, Schneider characterizes the postwar jazz clubs of Times Square during the 1940s and 1950s as prime social settings for the birth of a new drug culture, as the concentration of musicians and patrons became an attractive feature for dealers and opium peddlers. He also suggests that this public manifestation of drug culture arose in the aftermath of the drug secrecy of the 1930s and led to more overt federal response in the form of police patrolling on the ground level as opposed to furtive investigation.

Both authors emphasize the importance of place in the emergence of each new drug culture. They recognize that addressing aspects of consumerism—like location and supply—are integral to drug popularization. Remus largely relies on scholarly journals and newspaper articles to characterize the practices of “tippling ladies” in late 19th century Chicago. Many of the quotes she pulls from these sources include observations made by witnesses and social commentary on female drinking practices. The inclusion of these supporting details creates a detailed image of how drinking amongst wealthy women played out during this time. However, I found the images she included in her article of the “tippling women” and the insides of their tearooms to be the most convincing evidence in supporting her argument that the creation of these spaces essentially subverted established social norms for women.

Fig 1. Reprinted from the Chicago Tribune, Aug. 2, 1896, p. 29. This sketch depicting women gathering at an alcohol serving soda fountain in downtown Chicago demonstrates both the luxury of this practice and its popularity amongst female patrons through clothing choices.

Though Schneider’s argument about the role of New York City jazz clubs in fostering the public problem of opioid abuse is quite similar, he relies mainly on personal accounts from jazz critics and artists to characterize his scenes. I found Schneider’s use of the investigative notes on marijuana culture published by the New York Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Public Health to be particularly intriguing. Though these notes are primary sources disseminated by an organization with a degree of authority, they essentially offer the personal account of Olive J. Cregan, one of the committee’s investigators. Cregan observed various physical spaces inhabited by marijuana users from tea pads and social clubs to the bathrooms of city public schools. As he concludes his discussion of Cregan’s sociological data, Schneider reflects on the credibility of her account: “While Cregan was not an ethnographer and did not reflect on being a participant-observer or probe into the meaning of her observations, she possessed a policewoman’s careful eye for detail that makes her account believable” (22). Schneider believes Cregan’s attention to detail gives her observations credence, but I am skeptical about the level of objectivity Cregan could have achieved as a white, female police officer. Much of Cregan’s observation came as a result of her trying to enter spaces predominantly occupied by those of highly distinct socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. For example, I was mostly struck by this notion when considering how Cregan went about investigating marijuana use amongst adolescent African-American high schoolers. Though she likely maintained a level of discretion in her research practices, I can imagine that her presence was acutely noticeable and likely played a role in what she was able to observe, thus corrupting its objectivity.

What About Black Women?

In The Alcoholic Republic, W.J. Rorabaugh focuses Chapter 1 “A Nation of Drunkards” on whether Americans were really “drunkards” in the nineteenth century (Rorabaugh 5). Intemperance seemed to be growing in America much more than in any European nation, which European visitors vouch for. However, Dalton felt the term “tippler” was more appropriate than “drunkards” because public drunkenness was not common (Rorabaugh 6). Neilson also pointed out that though Americans were heavy drinkers, they developed a higher tolerance to support this, so they were not often very intoxicated. Rorabaugh drew on surveys to make his point, showing the annual consumption of distilled spirits and other alcoholic beverages from 1720-1970. In comparison to other nations, the surveys showed that Americans did not drink the most. It was about the same as Scots or French, and less than Swedes (Rorabaugh 10).

Women were discouraged from drinking alcohol, unless it was for medicinal purposes. Enslaved Southerners did not drink much either as set by the law. White males did most of the drinking. Men began drinking as toddlers, and adolescents drank in public to show  a transition to manhood, which was praised throughout all social and occupational groups (Rorabaugh 14). Men had lots of access to alcohol; there was even a bar on the gentlemen’s side of the steamboats, placed in a way to discourage women from drinking (Rorabaugh 18).

The drinking habit of white men, women, children, and even enslaved Southerners are mentioned in this chapter, but black women are never explicitly mentioned, which left me wondering “What about black women?” Some women did drink recreationally, but Rorabaugh says the topic was too “delicate to discuss” (Rorabaugh 12). Emily A. Remus took on that challenge.

In “Tippling Ladies and the Making of Consumer Culture,” Emily A. Remus discusses how women in Chicago gained more autonomy over themselves in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and more specifically, over their drinking habits. Unlike Rorabaugh, who relies on surveys which leave a lot of room for bias and misinformation, Remus draws on secondary sources like academic articles and books, as well as primary sources like newspaper articles. Though newspaper articles may be biased, they provide a good depiction of what people really thought at the time.

Remus focuses on the growth in drinking options and rise of establishments catered to women, challenging the notion that women should not drink in public. Similar to men who, Rorabaugh stated, had steamboat drinking sections, women had separate quarters for when they were not escorted by men, though men were not excluded to the extent that women were from men’s quarters. Remus repeats like Rorabaugh that women mostly drank in private and for medicinal reasons. She adds that drinking medicinally was disapproved by reformers, but public drinking was more serious. If women drank, they were not just drinking in public; they were “public women,” meaning their bodies were for sale (Remus 752). Unlike critics in The American Republic, Reverend Hopkins thought these women were the ones becoming “drunkards” in public (Remus 751). They were known not just as tipplers, but as “women tipplers” and “lady tipplers” (Remus 751).

On the other hand, Women’s clubs were associated with more than drinking, like public service and political involvement. Women began fighting for “social equality between the sexes” (Remus 774). However, they were not fighting for equality between the races. Money was not the only requirement for women to drink publicly; race was another. African American women were often denied service, and any legal actions against the establishments were generally failures (Remus 761). White women were only fighting for white women.

There was social mixing among different classes when drinking, but not races. Monied women is defined as women with disposable income and leisure time, who were both wives and daughters of professionals (Remus 754). Clergymen felt that women were at the club forgetting their “babies and homes” (Remus 772). How could women back then have leisure time when they were wives that had to take care of their “babies and homes?” How could they have had the time to “find fulfillment outside their roles as wives and mothers” (Remus 776)?

Black women were completely erased from the situation in The Alcoholic Republic, and only briefly mentioned in “Tippling Ladies” to state that they were not allowed to drink in public establishments. So, where were they? Around this time, it was very common for black women to care for white children, fulfilling the “mammy” stereotype. There is no room in the “mammy” stereotype for drinking, nor did they have “disposable income” or “leisure time.” While white women were rejecting Victorian standards and fighting for other women, Black women were erased as women as they cared for the white women’s children.

A Questionable Understanding of Tobacco and Alcohol Resistance

My favorite reading so far in class has been the Remus reading that goes through the process in which white women gained social consciousness and individuality through drinking culture and affluence of alcohol in Chicago. I was immediately drawn into the article because I was able to contextualize and recognize the reasoning for going downtown. Chicago is a unique city because there is no East side due to Lake Michigan, therefore the city grows outwards into the suburbs. Although downtown Chicago is already large, the majority of Chicagoians come from the suburbs or what we like to call the “Chicagoland area”. Because of this, I was able to better understand the reasoning for why white “monied” women were focused on traveling downtown into the city for shopping and why they would be stuck downtown and need to go to the drug store or drink some alcohol for some sort of upper for the day.  Additionally, Remus focuses on the social transition and creation of autonomy for affluent white women. This angered people in the temperance movement and especially men that were angered by women taking a literal seat at the table. This was an indicator of the (white) feminist movement beginning to emerge in the early 20th century which lead to several shifts in culture and politics in the United States (such as the 18th and 19th Amendments). 

The second reading I want to explore is the Courtwright Forces of Habit article. Courtwright takes to tobacco and expands on how tobacco was so special in terms of its prosperity and resistance to political opposition (something alcohol was frequently subject to). Tobacco is a relatively new drug due to it being native to the Americas. Additionally, it rapidly expanded its use and presence in Early Americas because although it was difficult to cultivate, racist slave owners abused and exploited black populations for their labor. Because of the unjust exploitation of black labor, tobacco was able to rise up in the market as a cheap drug which allowed low-income civilians the ability to purchase a previously held luxury reserved for the wealthy. Tobaccos ability to cut social categories allowed it to boom exponentially with the growth of the colonies. Additionally, because of the way tobacco is cultivated, producers were able to customize their tobacco in order to give them a competitive edge in the market. This began the capitalist agenda amongst Americans that relies on the exploitation of labor (and land due to soil exhaustion) in order to maximize profits. 

I chose these two readings to examine because their content focuses on how society reacted to the affluent and increased usage of these products. While Courtwright takes a much more historical and general approach to the use and presence of tobacco in American than Remus does on white affluent female usage of alcohol in Chicago, both articles focus on how the presence of drugs, and more specifically who was using the drug, affected society and basic understandings of the place these drugs had in the community. Courtwright mentions that the usage of tobacco originated in 1492 for Europeans but did not become popularized or widespread until the colonial cultivation companies such as Maryland or Virginia expanded their production and focused on the exploitation of slave labor. Once it became popular, tobacco was used by the majority of people due to it being so cheap. Herein lies the fundamental difference between the expansion of tobacco versus alcohol: tobacco was wide spread upon its initial proliferation around the world while alcohol was used as a symbol of class and status for centuries. Remus notes throughout their article that white affluent women drinking alcohol was so controversial because they were acting on more than just alcohol use, but they were challenging the idea that women did not deserve the same privileges as men in society. It was this notion of alcohol use that created the social change that followed temperance movements. Tobacco had violent opposition such as in Russia when they would cut off the noses of users or in Ukraine where authorities would shove a spike through the users nose. Alcohol took a much more political path in its opposition. Laws were passed throughout American history that restricted, taxed, or prohibited alcohol usage (see 18th Amendment) which was supported by the political elites because they felt threatened by women drinking alcohol in public and displaying their status of independent wealth instead of their connection to a man with wealth. These two drugs, which have both withheld the test of time, have been treated in society, specifically the United States, very differently. Although these two articles refer to two different points in time, they both emphasize how social class would have an affect on the usage of these drugs. However, I fail to fully comprehend Courtwrights statement that tobacco cut social classes and was resistant to political opposition. There were acts to decrease tobacco but no mention of any political process that attempted to legitimize the prohibition or at least restriction of tobacco. What was the cause for this? Why did Courtwright skim over the instances in which tobacco did have political resistance? Specifically violent resistance? Remus seems to go more in depth and explain the understandings and societal reasoning for alcohol’s prohibition. Why was tobacco able to go mostly unscathed? These ideas are brought up by Courtwright but they fail to further elaborate on how it affected society and the reasoning for why tobacco was able to cut social classes even though alcohol was also proliferating at the same time.