Drug Addictions of the Times


Andrew Williams

Forgive the intrusion people but I am assisting Katrina. There is a historical book published by the Southampton author - John G. Avery. The subject concern is called - The Cholear Years.

(In my opinion this is a damn good book). The climax of this decease in Britain alone had reached epidemic preporotions during the late 1890's.

The index does list many good reference sources which could come useful at a later stage. To obtain a copy your can write directly to the publishers who are based on the other side of Southampton.


Ashford Press
Bottings Industrial Estate
Hilldons Road
Nr Botley

Another point I would to make. Once Cholera had nearly fizzled out of society there was another lurking on the horizon - Consumptions - commonly know today as Tuberculosis.

Katrina perhaps you need to add T.B on your list as well.

Hope this helps.

A. W.

Inger Sheil

Dec 3, 2000
Hallo Andrew - I think Katrina is after information on drug addictions during the Edwardian era rather than information on diseases of the age. She mentioned chloral - this is 'chloral hydrate' rather than the disease cholera. 'Chloral hydrate' is a very old synthesised drug that first made its appearance in 1832. It's a hypnotic depressant - in other words, it is sleep inducing. When mixed with alcohol it becomes the notorious 'knockout drops' or 'Micky Finn'.

Most of the drugs mentioned in this thread were, at least originally, intended to be used medicinally - even Absinthe.

Cholera was indeed a terrible disease - one of the saddest stories in my family tree involved my great-great aunt, who lost her only beloved daughter in a cholera epidemic in Oberon at the turn of last century. My gg aunt lived to be a hair short of 100, but grieved the loss of that baby for the rest of her life. Tuberculosis was also a problem, and was so at least as long as cholera (several of the Brontes succumbed to this disease).

I owe you a couple of emails, btw, and will try to send them this week (I've been very busy at work and haven't had a chance to delve into my correspondence).

Monica, you're recounting a very familiar scenario - the 'gurrrrls' down here are very fond of our cocktail weekends!

Andrew Williams

Yes, Inger, your correct.

Yours truly wasn't wearing his glasses as usual. A habit I got to get into or else one day, I am going to make one hell of a blunder.

Just a thought though.


Brian Ahern

Dec 19, 2002
I've often thought of what percentage of people on the Titanic must have had substance abuse problems. Statistically, quite a few would have. Of course, 1912 was before the advent of AA and the recognition of alcoholism and addiction as a disease. I've been hesitant to raise the subject, since it is a sensitive one and we don't have much to go on but heresay. But since the thread is here already...

Robert Daniel's death certificate lists cause of death as cirrhosis of the liver. This only INDICATES a drinking problem. Madeleine Astor's tumultuous personal life and pretty-well-documented death from an overdose also indicates a problem. Zette Baxter's life was touched by alcoholism, in that her husband suffered from it, leading to the breakup of the marriage and his career.

The reason I bring this up is because, to me, alcoholism is a health issue and not a moral one, and it is not being gossipy or malicious to discuss whether someone suffered from it.

Brian Ahern

Dec 19, 2002
I've been searching the archives to find out which crewmember it was who by some accounts was a crossdresser, by others was definitely not, but who by all accounts was a "drunkard".
Dec 2, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>I've often thought of what percentage of people on the Titanic must have had substance abuse problems. Statistically, quite a few would have. <<

And you're probably right. Given the sort of things that were in patent medicines at the time, it would be all too easy to get hooked and not even know it until it was way to late. Hardly surprising when you realized a lot of these preperations were loaded with opiates, alcohol, organophosphates (The same stuff used in military nerve gasses!) and God alone knew what else. All of this was readily available over the counter or from the medicine wagon.

Some may find This Wikpedia Entry to be of some interest.
Apr 11, 2001
Amazing more people didn't kill themselves with laudanum, morphine, codeine and even Lydia Pinkham's Medicinal Compound had a high alcohol content. Children's teething and cough mixtures were loaded with narcotics-poor kid stopped crying because he was knocked out in a sleep stupor. Coca-Cola at one time, so it is rumored had a touch of cocaine. I collect Ayers sarsparilla and patent medicine memorabilia,- Lowell, Massachusetts being Patent Medicine capital of the nation. Also Hoyt's is from Lowell, a textile city. Hoyt's made patent medicine but is famous for their German Cologne. Here are some advertising cards for their children's cherry cough syrup and ague cure. Who knows what was in them- Ayers made a bundle.There is a great book about the patent medicine tycoons called The Sarsparilla Kings by Scott Stewart if you can find a copy.


João Carlos Pereira Martins

Hey everyone!

I was searching about drug abuse in the Edwardian period and I found out that heroine was also quite popular by this time. And was there cases of addiction to pills, like narcotics or something else? I would be very aprecciated if someone had further information about the topic.

May 27, 2007
Pills indeed!!!!
A lot of over the counter pills and 'Tonics' had Morphine, Opium and other assorted goodies in them that would make your head spin. I bet some of 'em really packed a kick.

Child:"I feel all better now Momma". The Mother would probably take a nip herself. Nursing was stressful and she couldn't afford to get sick. She had all that back breaking house work to do. She got the medicine from the Pharmacy. How could it be bad? My Sister's a Pharmacist. She could probably go on and on about what they put in pills back in the good ole' days.
Dec 2, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>Arsenic!!! Thats playing with fire.<<

So was playing around with the patent medicines of the era, which commonly had any number of questionable ingrediants, including heavy metals such as murcury. This Wikipedia Entry speaks to this in the Unintentional Poisoning section while This Link goes to an entry discussing patent medicines. As always, you need to be cautious with the information on Wikipedia, but you can use it as a starting point for further research.
Mar 20, 2007
The most well-known victim of drug abuse around this time was that of revue-star, party-girl and proto-flapper, Billie Carleton. It was of her that the 'Tatler' wrote:

'She has cleverness, temperament and charm. Not enough of the first, and perhaps too much of the latter.'

This verdict was proved tragically right. Carleton died of an over-dose of either cocaine or heroin (I don't recall which) after the Victory Ball, held at the Royal Albert Hall in London, on the night on 27th November, 1918. Her death in the wee small hours really served to high-light how prevalent the recreational use of drugs had become in the racier sections of Society during the Great War. Lady Diana Cooper, nee Manners, regularly took morphine in an attempt to numb the pain of the multiple losses of her male friends and contemporaries in action. And, from what I gather, such a habit was by no means unusual, either.

I noticed, George, that you've started a 'Jazz Age' thread to run parallel to our exploration of the Belle Epoque and the Edwardian Era. Yet the premature demise of the lovely Miss Carleton demonstrates that the traits we most associate with the Roaring Twenties really had their roots in the previous decade.
May 27, 2007
True Martin,

My thread I started is really the fruition of the Gilded Age. Most of the traits of the Roaring 20's already in Society. That's one of the reasons I called the thread All Roads Lead to Ballyhoo. A lot of the threads we discuss had the collimation in the Jazz Age.

Plus a lot of the time discussions move towards the Jazz Age in other threads in on way or another and beyond. So I thought to give all us Sheiks and Sheba's a place to jazz it up.

Jim Kalafus

Dec 3, 2000
She stands there sniffin' with her nose all sore
Doctor says he wont sell her more
says "Coke's for horses not woman or men."
Doc says it'll kill 'er he but he dont say when.
So we wait a while and whiff our good cocaine.

(Cocaine Blues, Post-1900)

Early one morning I was making my rounds.
Took a shot of cocaine then I shot my woman down.
Went right home and fell into bed
tucked my loving .44 beneath my head.

Woke up next morning and I grabbed my gun
took a shot of cocaine and I away I run.
Made a good run, but I went too slow-
law overtook me down in Juarez, Mexico.
(Cocaine Blues, version 2)

I'm a ding-dong daddy, babe, liquor is my racket.
Lots of times when things get slow I deal in other traffic.
I can sell you morphine, I can sell you "snow."
Take a quick shot and you're rarin' to go.
I'm a ding-dong daddy, babe, you ought-a see me do my stuff.

(Believe it or not, the Osmonds made their televised debut on the Andy Williams show singing a cleaned up version of this last one)

The women in the alley just wait in line to sniff my good cocaine.
(Version 3)

Ah, for the good old days, when music was inoffensive.

Dont you feel my leg
cause if you feel my leg
you'll want to feel my thigh
and if you feel my thigh
you'll want to feel up high.
Dont you get me high
and dont you give me rye
cause if you give me rye
then I'll believe your lies.
If I believe your lies
I'll let you feel up high.
So, don't you get me high.

(Don't Get Me High -Post 1918)

Yes, there was a certain innocence to those old days.

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