Turn-of-the Century War On Drugs

Cocaine, and the physical, moral, and societal dangers inherent in its use, have been the

subject of recent news stories, magazine articles, television programs, and movies. But the

1980s aren’t the first time cocaine has been a problem. In 1907, cocaine traffic and related

crime prompted the Omaha city attorney to declare his own “war on drugs.” And the dope

dealers he fingered weren’t kids on the streets, but allegedly respectable members of the

business community.

“The wanton murder of Anton Kaspar, supposedly by a cocaine fiend, and the multiplicity of

minor crimes traceable to the drug habit have inspired City Prosecutor Daniel to an effort at

checking the distressing increase of this dangerous traffic in which certain drug stores in the

shadowy section of Omaha engage upon such large lines.

“A case in police court Wednesday prompted immediate action. Ed Bextel, proprietor of the

drug store at Twelfth and Dodge streets, was arrested on a complaint sworn by Daniel

Wednesday morning. Police court was continued until long after the usual hour in order that

the druggist might be taken into court and arraigned immediately.

“The case which drove Prosecutor Daniel to take the action and Judge Crawford to prolong

the court session was that of George Williams, who was arrested at 3 o’clock in the morning

by Patrolman Lahey as a suspicious character. Williams told Judge Crawford his desire for

the “coke” was so great he was obliged to leave his home at 2606 Jefferson Street, South

Omaha, and, as no cares were running, walk the six miles to Omaha in order to buy 5 cents’

worth of the stuff. He said he bought it at Bextel’s store.

“After the close of court Williams was given his empty “coke” box and sent to Bextel’s store

with two witnesses, who saw him hand the box over the counter with 10 cents and have it

returned to him filled without a word being said. The same performance was gone through

with at Frank W. Fogg’s store at Twelfth Street and Capitol Avenue and he will be included

in the crusade against the evil in Omaha. Several attempts have been made in the past to

have slaves of the drug turn witnesses, but none of them would jeopardize his chances of

being provided when the desire should come on.


–Omaha Evening Bee, 6-12-07.

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