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New-York Tribune, December 3, 1912; December 4, 1912; April 30, 1913. Have you ever seen such beautiful and persuasive anti-drug propaganda? [Click on the images for enlarged view. I’ve just discovered how to work the “Gallery” function of this blog template. This could be the next big wave of the past.]

I can’t stop looking at these. The cartoonist is walking a very fine line between making the dope fiends look fiendish even while preserving sympathy for them as human beings enslaved to addiction. The two pharmacists are correspondingly complicated amalgams of greed, shame and disgust. You get the impression that the artist (I’d call him that) put down some shoe leather researching his subject before getting out his charcoals.

I’ll have to do some research myself on this here Walker Bill (is anybody out there an expert on the history of interdiction legislation?) But as vividly as these cartoons capture the human cost of a virtually unregulated* cocaine market, they simultaneously present a virtually utopian picture of drug traffic so relaxed and mellow that little old ladies and fusty apothecarists dominate the trade. Unarmed, no less. That’s what I call harm abatement.

*I say “virtually” because it seems like coke had been criminalized by this point but that the laws weren’t being enforced with any rigor.

2 Comments

  1. Fine art , indeed. Don’t you think the druggist is reaching for the “release the hounds” button in the third image ?

    • Guy is definitely experiencing workplace darkness.


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