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Topics in Chronicling America - America's First Cocaine Epidemic

"Cocaine Monster Throws His Tentacles Around the Nation," reports the Los Angeles Herald of December 11, 1898. Found in common medicines and popular soft drinks, cocaine addiction sweeps across the country during the early 1900s creating a nation of “drug fiends,” and prompting government legislation. Read more about it!!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/). Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.


Picture of a cocaine addict

Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • December, 1898. The cocaine monster begins to spread its tentacles across the U.S., threatening to spawn a nation of “dope fiends.”
  • May, 1911. The Federal Government warns of cocaine in bottled sodas and colas.
  • December 4, 1912. Druggists call for restrictions on the sale of cocaine.
  • February, 1914 The New York Sun calls the U.S. the “most drug afflicted nation” in the world.
  • June, 1914. Clergyman claims cocaine is as easy to buy as ice cream.
  • May 22, 1915. Harrison anti-drug law triggers a nationwide crime wave.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] cocaine, dead, addict, opiate, narcotic.
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event in order to narrow your results.
  • To narrow results, search between 1898-1915.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  January 25, 2013
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