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Cocaine Crisis (1898-1915): Topics in Chronicling America

The late 19th and early 20th century saw a rise in cocaine use across the United States. This guide provides access to materials related to the "Cocaine Crisis" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"The Drug Terror." February 15, 1914. The Sun (New York, NY), Image 29. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

"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 in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


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.
May 22, 1915 Harrison anti-drug law triggers a nationwide crime wave.