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Marihuana: Topics in Chronicling America

From the late 19th to early 20th century, newspapers reported the early rise of marihuana (known today as marijuana). This guide provides access to materials related to "Marihuana" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

U.S. newspapers question and blame the rise of marijuana on bandits from Mexico. September 25, 1915. The Ogden Standard (Ogden City, UT), Image 13. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Alarming reports of the menace of marihuana reach the United States press. Tales of alleged atrocities fueled by the drug are often tied to anti-Mexican propaganda. 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.

Timeline

August 12, 1897 Under the headline “Victims of a Mexican Drug,” the New York Sun relays a report from the Mexican Herald that “Marihuana, our local hasheesh, continues to impel people of the lower orders to wild and desperate deeds.”
July 15, 1899 The Oasis (Arizola, Arizona) relays a report from the Mexican Herald of a scene in a civil registry office: “A marihuana fiend suddenly appeared in the office brandishing a knife, declared that he was Herod and his mission was the extermination of new-born infants.”
October 16, 1908 The Florida Star reports that James Love, who operates an agricultural experimental station in Texas, has received permission from the state agricultural department to plant in Texas ten pounds of marihuana seed he has imported from Mexico. The article states Mr. Love’s belief is that the plant “can be put to good commercial use as a drug.”
April 11, 1909 The New-York Tribune relays a fanciful tale of an alleged Mexican goat-herder whose goats have become addicted to marihuana.
June 3, 1915 Under the subhead “Council Passes Emergency Ordinance to Stop Sale of Mexican Drug,” the El Paso Herald reports a prospective ban on marihuana passed by the El Paso City Council.
June 7, 1915 The El Paso Herald reports concern from local physicians and pharmacists over El Paso’s prospective anti-marihuana law. The Herald’s article states that “It is put up by the foremost drug manufacturers in the country and is frequently prescribed, as it is a sedative of value.”
June 14, 1915 El Paso’s anti-marihuana ordinance takes effect. The law provides for fines of up to two hundred dollars.
September 25, 1915 In an article entitled “Is the Mexican Nation 'Locoed' by a Peculiar Weed?” the Ogden Standard suggests that Mexican “bandits” are being emboldened to take on Uncle Sam by the intoxicating effects of marihuana.