“Coke’s for Whores, It Ain’t for Men; They Say It Kills but They Don’t Know When.”

September 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

As common as venereal disease was, the numbers did not match the near ubiquity of drug abuse in Guy Town and the rest of Austin. Drug use was perfectly legal; you could buy morphine as easily as a stick of chewing gum. Mothers lulled colicky babies into pain-dulled sleep with morphine-based syrups like Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup (“likely to sooth any human or animal”). When Little Johnny or Jane had a toothache, a cocaine-based lozenge numbed things down nicely. And habits acquired young are habits that tend to stick. Cute advertising cards for the Soothing Syrup and cocaine toothache drops featured beaming children happily at play. Bayer proudly advertised its heroin as well as its famous aspirin.

As has been the case with so many fashion trends, cocaine abuse started among the high society of New York City in the 1880s and was a favorite among Austin drug addicts by the 1890s.

Woke up this morning had a hunger pain.

And all I want for breakfast is my good Cocaine.”

In March 1894, Officer Gibson arrested Emma Tweedle one day for disturbing the peace. When chuck full of cocaine, or coming down off it, she was really dangerous when she got on the warpath. Emma had gotten up that day in a bad humor, and by the time she got out in the street, she was in a very irritable humor. Among the first things she did was sidle up to a white man standing on the curbstone and plunk him off into the gutter. She proceeded on up the street, never stopping a moment to think, and jumped Officer Gibson, who asked fair Emma what she meant. She immediately told him to go down under the earth and find out and so on. On the way to the police station, the fair lady fought like a tiger. When she was within a block of the station, she picked up a rock with the evident intention of hitting Gibson. He forestalled her, however, took the rock away from her and cracked her over the head instead. It was well for Officer Gibson to exercise care to prevent injury to himself. Emma had beaten his ribs black and blue about a year earlier with a rock under similar circumstances.

ohenry1896Cocaine abuse had gotten so bad, outside Guy Town proper, that Will Porter’s Rolling Stone noted in June 1894 that West Seventh Street, from Congress Avenue westward one block, was infested each night with the lowest, most disreputable and depraved characters of the “gentle sex,” who were keeping the cocaine route well traveled. It was almost impossible for a lady to travel in this locality after dark, even with an escort, on account of the impudent behavior of these street nuisances.

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You are currently reading “Coke’s for Whores, It Ain’t for Men; They Say It Kills but They Don’t Know When.” at The Blunderbuss.

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