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Starting Points

Points (n.) 1. marks of punctuation. 2. something that has position but not extension, as the intersection of two lines. 3. salient features of a story, epigram, joke, etc.:  he hit the high points. 4. (slang; U.S.) needles for intravenous drug use.

Quiet Radicals: The Life and Work of Ruth and Edward Brecher

Part 1 – Ruth Came First

Editor’s Note: This post is by Points Managing Editor Emerita Emily Dufton. She holds a PhD in American Studies from George Washington University and is the author of Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America. Email Emily at emily.dufton@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @emily_dufton. Welcome back, Emily!

There’s something about the topic of drugs that can invite great writer couples to tackle the subject together. Going back nearly a century, spouses Dr. Charles E. Terry and Mildred Pellens co-authored their 1,042-page opus The Opium Problem in 1928. In 1996’s Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, Dan Baum (who passed away from brain cancer last year) dedicated the book to his wife Margaret, who was his “reporting and writing partner” and “a genius at wrangling meaning from a sentence.” “My name is on the cover,” Baum acknowledged, “but the book is equally Margaret’s.”

The same can be said of Ruth and Edward Brecher, who, for 25 years, shared a byline on more than 200 articles and several books about science, drug use, and public health. Their commitment to researching complex topics and presenting them in a clear way to the general reader was so strong that, when the American Psychiatric Association presented them with the Robert T. Morse Writer’s Award in 1971, the Brechers were hailed as “scholarly crusaders for a better life for all Americans.” 

Brechers Title Card
Image of Ruth (Cook) Brecher from the Philadelphia Inquirer, April 9, 1933; Image of Edward Brecher from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 6, 1932.
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“Contested Cannabis: A History of Marijuana in Wisconsin and the Wider World”—Digital Exhibit and Online Roundtable Discussion

The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) is pleased to announce the completion of its digital exhibit, “Contested Cannabis: A History of Marijuana in Wisconsin and the Wider World,” funded in part by a generous grant from Wisconsin Humanities.

Contested Cannabis Social Card

Drawing upon AIHP historical collections as well collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society, the exhibit uses objects and items—including children’s anti-drug coloring books, pro-marijuana festival posters, archived World War One-era medicinal cannabis correspondence, and other artifacts and texts—to investigate and analyze the history of cannabis, marijuana, and hemp in the state of Wisconsin and in the United States.

“Contested Cannabis” is designed to advance public debate by examining the legal, regulatory, and cultural history of cannabis—particularly in the Badger State. The exhibit explores and explains the history of cannabis, hemp, and marijuana through five themes: Taxonomy; Hemp Agriculture; Pharmacy & Medicine; Propaganda & Education; and De/Criminalization. “Contested cannabis” is hosted by the AIHP Digital Library, which features digitized versions of items, artifacts, and objects from AIHP historical collections.

In conjunction with the digital exhibit, AIHP will be hosting an online Zoom roundtable on the topic of “Contested Cannabis: A History of Marijuana in Wisconsin and the Wider World” on December 8, 2021 from 1:00–2:30 PM Central Time (2:00–3:00 Eastern Time). Free registration is available on the project home page.

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HOPP Interview—Mat Savelli, “Crafting the Modern Via Psychoactivity Advertisements” 

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of the Points series of interviews with authors from the inaugural issue of AIHP’s journal History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (HoPP) (vol. 63, no. 1). Today we feature Mat Savelli, Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Chair in the Department of Health, Aging, and Society at McMaster University. Read his article here (open access until February 2022!) and consider joining AIHP to subscribe to HoPP.

Article Abstract for “Crafting the Modern Via Psychoactivity Advertisements”

In this article, we examine advertisements for psychoactive products sold in five different geo-political jurisdictions: Canada, Colombia, Yugoslavia, India, and Senegal. We compare products and marketing campaigns aimed at selling psychoactive substances to consumers in these places over the twentieth century.

Mat Savelli Interview Title Card
Left: Senegalese advertisement from December 24, 1960, issue of Dakar Matin. The ad proclaims that Kiravi Valpierre wine is the “Perfect Product of Progress.” Image featured in the article “Crafting Modernity via Psychoactivity Advertisements” in HoPP 63.1
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The Tragedy of George Schlichten; Or Reconsidering Cannabis Conspiracies

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY.  

There are a lot of conspiracy theories in the story of cannabis. The long, confusing, complex, and politically charged history of the plant in the United States, coupled with the absurdity of its current legal status at the federal level—and in a rapidly dwindling number of states—perhaps lends itself to this kind of thinking among American observers.

One alleged conspiracy involved the newspaper industry and the tragedy of German-American inventor George Schlichten. Schlichten made his name in the fiber industry, and he worked on improvements to decortication, the process of stripping the outer layer of fibrous plants prior to their further processing. But, the conspiracy theory alleges, his bid to manufacture hemp for newspaper production was sabotaged by scheming industrialists.

Schlichten Decorticator Machine 1919
Schlichten Decorticator Machine from George W. Schlichten’s 1919 patent.
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“Blah Blah Blah”: The Fallacy of United Nations Drug Summits

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Stefano Tijerina, a lecturer in management and the Chris Kobrack Research Fellow in Canadian Business History at the University’s of Maine’s Business School.

Blah Blah Blah” was the conclusion of environmental activist Greta Thunberg after the recent 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. As Thunberg’s response indicates, thirty years of constructive climate dialogue has resulted in few changes—just the kicking of the status-quo can down the road—even though twenty eight climate summits since 1995 have spent billions of dollars on travel, salaries, marketing, public relations, lobbying and other resources. All of this with little to show. Dreams drowned in “empty words and promises” and no concrete results, as Thunberg said.

The same lack of progress could be said about the United Nations and its conferences about drug control. Instead of using children and young adults for their propaganda machine, though, they exploit the victims of the illicit drug trade in developing countries to advance their anti-drug rhetoric and empty promises.

UN 1965 opium tracking
At the laboratory of the Division of Narcotic Drugs of the UN Secretariat, located in Geneva, Dr. Olav Braenden (Norway), Chief of the Laboratory (left), and Mrs. Jane Beck (United Kingdom), indicate the regions where opium is produced in 1965. Image courtesy of the United Nations. UN Photo/PP, (Unique identifier: UN7632427).
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Inaugural Issue of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals Published!

The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP) is pleased to announce that the first issue of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (HoPP), the Institute’s renamed academic journal is now available online at JSTOR (63.1, 2021)! This issue of the journal is also the first published under AIHP’s new partnership with the University of Wisconsin Press. HoPP continues Pharmacy in History, which AIHP self-published from 1959 through 2020.

The first issue of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals features articles about trademarks and intellectual property rights in the British drug market in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the history of non-branded compounded drugs in the Netherlands; the introduction of cocaine to China; and an analysis of the global advertising of psychoactive drugs. Editor-in-Chief Lucas Richert said that the first issue of the re-titled HoPP “represents the increasingly global and vibrant nature of pharmacy and pharmaceutical history.”

HoPP1 SocialCard 2
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Champagne and the Performance of Femininity in Victorian Britain

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Graham Harding, whose recent book, Champagne in Britian 1800–1914: How the British Transformed a French Luxury, was just published by Bloomsbury Academic.

In nineteenth century Britain, champagne was gendered feminine. Poems were written to “My Lady Champagne” that described it as “wayward, soft, luscious and tender” [1]. Women went to fancy dress balls dressed as champagne bottles (the nearest male equivalent was to go as a bottle of Bass beer). The words used to describe champagne— “pretty,” “elegant,” “sparkling”—reflected a stereotypical Victorian view of femininity.

“Sparkling” is a key word here. It encapsulated what the Victorian novelist Amelia Barr called “the social friskiness—the afternoon wit—the great fun” that Society (my capital “S”) demanded of women, particularly young women [2].

Harding Title Card
Left: Woman wearing a champagne bottle dress in 1902; and a photo of a vintage champagne bottle dress. Images courtesy of the Fashion Museum of Bath.
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Documenting the Evolution of Hospital and Clinical Pharmacy: Remembering the Career of Joseph Oddis

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is by William A. Zellmer, AIHP Advisor for Pharmacy Outreach and the President of Pharmacy Foresight Consulting.

A recently published tribute to Joseph A. Oddis (1928–2021), an extraordinary organizational leader in pharmacy, offers historical insights into the transformation of pharmacist education and pharmacy practice in the United States during the last four decades of the twentieth century. The entire August 15, 2021, issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (AJHP) (which is freely accessible at the preceding link) was devoted to the memory of Oddis, the first full-time Chief Executive Officer (1960–1997) of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), who died on February 24, 2021 (note: the downloadable .pdf version of this issue may be easier to read than the web version).

Joseph Oddis in 1984
Joseph Oddis at the Headquarters of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in 1984. Image courtesy of AIHP Kremers Reference Files.
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