Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What is an Opium Den, You Ask....

Opium dens? What the heck is an opium den, you ask? I didn't know either until a recent Google search took me through a historical journey of their epic proportions. I was stunned at the reality of which I read.

Back in the day when the good old USA had virtually no immigration or import/export policies to speak of, clipper ships full of opium began to make their way from the Far East to ports of call all over our East and West Coasts.

San Francisco was one of the hardest hit cities by this new and growing enterprise. In Chinatown alone, there were more opium dens than anyone could count. When the city fathers began to recognize there was a serious problem, the den owners decided to laugh in their faces, and opened a den just two short blocks from City Hall.

The problem grew and grew as there were no laws against it. Young men and women, as well as successful businessmen frequented the dens, only to succumb to opium's stupor-like effects. Eventually, the City of San Francisco fought the industry, taking it all the way to the State of California's Supreme Court, in a valiant fight to make opium illegal unless used under a doctor's care.

Not to be outdone, the owners of these dens spread their product far and wide, many in mining communities, where they popped up in the notorious red-light districts.. It seemed opium and prostitution went hand in hand.

I was so stunned with the history and lure of the opium dens that I knew I had to include a story line about one in this book.  Although the story is fictional, my character follows closely similar stories of addicts who surfaced in opium dens of old.

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