Alcohol and Opium in the Old West

Use, Abuse and Influence


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About the Book

This book explores the role and influence of drink and drugs (primarily opium) in the Old West, which for this book is considered to be America west of the Mississippi from the California gold rush of the 1840s to the closing of the Western Frontier in roughly 1900. This period was the first time in American history that heavy drinking and drug abuse became a major social concern.
Drinking was considered to be an accepted pursuit for men at the time. Smoking opium was considered to be deviant and associated with groups on the fringes of mainstream society, but opium use and addiction by women was commonplace. This book presents the background of both substances and how their use spread across the West, at first for medicinal purposes—but how overuse and abuse led to the Temperance Movement and eventually to National Prohibition. This book reports the historical reality of alcohol and opium use in the Old West without bias.

About the Author(s)

Jeremy Agnew, a biomedical electronics consultant, holds a Ph.D. in engineering and has been involved in the design and manufacture of medical devices for more than 30 years. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and has written several books on the Old West.

Bibliographic Details

Jeremy Agnew
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: 42 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7629-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1255-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Timeline 5
One. The Demon Rum and Other Drinks of Choice 9
Two. The Convoluted History of Opium 32
Three. A Motley Mix of Indigenous Brews 44
Four. Medical Use of Opium and Alcohol 56
Five. “Those Heathen Chinee” 78
Six. Boozers, Users and Abusers 101
Seven. Saloons and Other Parlors of Iniquity 123
Eight. Opium Dens 145
Nine. The Horrors of Addiction 164
Ten. Inebriety 184
Eleven. The Pathway to Prohibition 203
Postscript 224
Appendix I. Apothecaries’ Weights and Measures 231
Appendix II. Common 19th Century Medicines 232
Chapter Notes 235
Bibliography 245
Index 249

Book Reviews & Awards

“clearly written, rich in anecdote, and amply illustrated. Agnew has written prolifically about the Old West. Recommended”—Choice.