Lessons from The Narcotic Farm, Part One

Editor’s Note: Today, Points begins a series of reflections on the Lexington Narcotic Hospital, from Luke Walden, JP Olsen, and Nancy Campbell.  Walden is a documentary filmmaker, Olsen a journalist (and documentarian), and Campbell a historian (and Contributing Editor to Points).  Olsen brought Walden into the development of his film, The Narcotic Farm, and along the way the two began collaborating with Campbell as well–ultimately producing not only the film, but an accompanying book.  As with any such project, there is plenty of material left on the cutting room floor, and we are delighted that they have decided to share some of that with us here at Points.  Look for more posts on Lexington over the coming months.

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Century of Progress Farm. Bluegrass Retreat for America’s Suffering Mankind. Helping Humanity Home. World’s Restoration Hospital. Federal Institution for Incorrigibles. U.S. Torpor Institution. Your Boy and Mine. Narcomania.

These were some of nearly 800 submissions to a Lexington, KY newspaper’s 1935 contest to name a massive federal edifice growing in the farmland outside town.  From the fanciful to the prosaic, the names embodied the national hope, idealism, desperation and confusion that attended the founding of the first United States Narcotic Farm. The dominant attitude about the $4 million asylum on a thousand acres of rich farmland was optimistic, progressive, even utopian.  It would not just be a prison for drug addicts it would also save them.

Atlanta Georgian: The Light of a New Day

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