Monday, April 21, 2014

Victorian Junkies - Cocaine For Toothache and Other Class A Victorian Oddities by Jenni Shelton

"Cocaine toothache drops", 1885 advertisement of cocaine for dental pain in children.




This Victorian advert for ‘cocaine toothache drops’ seems thoroughly shocking nowadays. The very idea of giving cocaine to children in any form, let alone in the form of a ‘cure’ seems horrific to those who know the addictive and destructive qualities of the drug. However, for the Victorians it was quite a different story. It does not take a lot of poking about in Victorian antique ephemera to come across a variety of quite legitimate posters advertising drugs, drug-taking paraphernalia, and even pharmaceutical bottles containing remnants of Class A substances sold over the counter. Far from the straight-laced and rigidly proper characters we now think of them as, the evidence seems clear: vast swathes of Victorian society were off their heads on drugs.


Cocaine

Cocaine has been used since at least 3,000 BC, in the form of chewed coca leaves. The indigenous people of the Peruvian Andes chewed the leaves in order to stimulate their cardiovascular systems and thus counteract the effects of the thin mountain air. Indeed, this practice still continues today – the Bolivian government recently petitioned the UN to allow its indigenous population to continue their traditional use of coca leaves. It was even used by Spanish conquistadors to render South American forced laborers more biddable. However, the active ingredient of coca leaves was not isolated and transformed into the form we now know as ‘cocaine’ until the Victorian era – whereupon it took off in a big way. Sigmund Freud was among the first to rave about its benefits. He published a paper entitled ‘Uber Coca’, in which he claimed cocaine to be a ‘magical’ drug which should be prescribed for a variety of conditions, including depression and impotence. He continued his advocacy of cocaine despite noticing that it led to physical, moral, and mental decline, and despite the shocking hallucinations many of his patients experienced while on the drug. In 1886, John Pemberton mixed up a recipe for a new soft drink containing coca leaves. ‘Coca-cola’ – so named for its cocaine content – is no longer a Class A substance, but back in Victorian times it became very popular very quickly due to its euphoric effects. Before long, cocaine was being added to a vast variety of things, ranging from tonics to toothache drops. Advertisements, bottles, cocaine pipes and more are commonly found by the collector of Victorian ephemera. More worryingly, cocaine was often mixed into deadly ‘elixirs’ containing those other Victorian ‘miracle’ drugs – opiates.


An Opium Den, Chinatown, San Francisco, California.



Laudanum and Opium

The Victorian opiate of choice was laudanum – a tincture of opium, which was considered a miraculous panacea and prescribed for everything from mild headaches to cancer. You didn’t have to have a prescription to get it, though. It could be freely bought over the counter, and no pharmacist worth their salt would be without laudanum in both liquid and pill form. Laudanum is largely responsible for the popular image of the interestingly pale Victorian lady wasting glamorously away within her boudoir. It promoted lethargy and loss of appetite, as well as rendering users more or less mentally incapable of doing anything other than lie around in a state of confused euphoria. Nurses even spoonfed laudanum to teething babies – resulting in numerous tragic infant deaths. Babies were not the only ones to die from laudanum overdose, however. Although the precise number of laudanum-related deaths remains unknown (it was often prescribed for terminal diseases, and early death simply attributed to said diseases), it is certain that many perished. The artist Elizabeth Siddal – wife of pre-Raphaelite painter, poet, and conspicuous addict Dante Gabriel Rossetti – was cripplingly addicted to laudanum, and died of an overdose, as did many other less high-profile Victorians. The problem was heightened when laudanum began to be supplemented with stronger opium. Smoked through pipes in ‘opium dens’, this Chinese drug swiftly began to take hold of Victorian society. Its effects were shocking, and began to alert the Victorians and early Edwardians to the fact that use of narcotics could have serious and widespread drawbacks. Late Victorian literature abounds with descriptions of heavy-lidded men recumbent in smoky opium dens, faces gaunt and chests hollow, their entire being given up to the drug upon which they have become dependent. It was a shock for those who had previously confined drug habits to the sickroom and private boudoir, and a very visible wake up call for governments and health authorities. Clearly, something had to be done.


Opium smokers in the East End of London, 1874. From the Illustrated London News, 1 August 1874


Developing Treatments

Modern addicts have a plethora of treatment resources available to them. They can draw upon years of medical knowledge and experience in the field of substance withdrawal, and enjoy the benefits of psychiatric expertise into the addict’s state of mind. Psychological and physical problems can be dealt with, and extensive support networks exist for those who wish to utilise them. Our ancestors had no such luck. Addiction was seen as a moral flaw rather than a mental and physical problem, and doctors thus tried to cure it through such profoundly ineffective methods as stern punishment and prayer. Many addicts were confined to ‘inebriate asylums’, where they received inhumane ‘treatments’ such as being strapped down and sluiced with ice-cold water. Unsurprisingly, these had very little effect upon the problem. However, when the addict returned to their substance of choice after release, it was put down to entrenched moral degeneracy rather than to failure on the part of the treatment. It was only when the wealthy and influential began to seek surreptitious treatment for their addictions that substance abuse treatment became an area of serious scientific study. More humane ‘drying out’ houses for the rich were established, where they could go through medically supervised withdrawal. However, it was not until the 1960s that drug addiction treatments began to comprise more than just seeing an addict through the stages of withdrawal, and it is only very recently that some breakthroughs have been made in understanding the science of addiction.





Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Orleans Saint Joseph Altars

Saint Joseph alter at the Old Ursuline Convent and St. Mary’s Italian Church

March 19th marks the Catholic celebration of St. Josephs Day where Catholic New Orleanians construct elaborate altars in honor of this saint. The tradition, commemorating the relief St. Joseph provided during a famine in Sicily, began in the late 1800’s when Sicilian immigrants settled in New Orleans. Today, St. Joseph’s day is not just for Italian-Americans. Every year, this celebration offers New Orleans natives and visitors a chance to share food with others and for believers, a way to express gratitude for any sort of fortune in their lives.

Saint Joseph alter at the Old Ursuline Convent and St. Mary’s Italian Church


St. Joseph altars, representing the Holy Trinity, are divided into three sections with a statue of St. Joseph at the head. The devout place candles, figurines, flowers, medals and other items around the alter creating a beautiful, lush and overflowing effect. Since the altars thank St. Joseph for relieving hunger, offerings of food are essential.





Cookies, cakes and breads, often in the form of shell fish, are common decorations for alatars. Fava beans, or “lucky beans” are particularly associated with St. Joseph because they sustained the Sicilians throughout famine. Pick some up for good luck! As tradition has it, the altar is broken up on St. Joseph’s day with a ceremony of costumed children, pretending to look for shelter, finding sustenance at the altar. Food and donations are then distributed to the poor.

Saint Joseph alter at the Old Ursuline Convent and St. Mary’s Italian Church

Fish on St. Joseph's altar


 The "lucky fava bean" is one of the most well-known customs and comes from the time of the famine in Sicily when all the crops withered and died, except for the fava bean, which flourished and enabled the citizens to live through the famine.  It is said that Sicilians often carry a dried fava bean for good luck.


Saint Joseph alter at the Old Ursuline Convent and St. Mary’s Italian Church

Symbols abound on St. Joseph's Altars:  Breads baked in the form of fish represent the Lenten Season.  Those in the form of carpenter's tools allude to Joseph's occupation as a carpenter.  Other symbols often used as a form for bread or other baked goods are:  sandals, staff, chalice, dove, lamb, cross, a crown of thorns, palms.



Saint Joseph alter at the Old Ursuline Convent and St. Mary’s Italian Church


Saint Joseph alter at the Old Ursuline Convent and St. Mary’s Italian Church







Immaculate Conception church, locally known as Jesuit church






Immaculate Conception church, locally known as Jesuit church


 Palm leaves, flowers, citrus fruit and Easter eggs, often nestled in Spanish moss, are used to decorate.





 Palm leaves, flowers, citrus fruit and Easter eggs, often nestled in Spanish moss, are used to decorate.




Immaculate Conception church, locally known as Jesuit church

St. Joseph's Church on Tulane Avenue.  The church was constructed between 1869-1890 and is the largest church in the city. For many years it was the scene of a large St. Joseph's Altar. 




St. Joseph's Church on Tulane Avenue.  The church was constructed between 1869-1890 and is the largest church in the city. For many years it was the scene of a large St. Joseph's Altar. 












Immaculate Conception church, locally known as Jesuit church


 Palm leaves, flowers, citrus fruit and Easter eggs, often nestled in Spanish moss, are used to decorate.

St. Patrick's Church is a Catholic church and parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was founded in 1833, and the current structure was completed in 1840. It is the second oldest parish in New Orleans (the oldest parish is St. Louis Cathedral), located upriver from the French Quarter at 724 Camp Street in what is now the Central Business District.

Leon Pomarede, a young artist, did the huge murals behind the main altar in 1841 for $1,000 each. These are masterpieces. Once a French newspaper observed that if the artist had been executing such work in a Paris church, crowds would have gathered each day to watch him. The center mural is The Transfiguration, flanked by Christ Walking on the Water on the right, and St. Patrick himself baptizing the princess daughters of Ireland’s King Laoghaire, on the left.

St. Patrick's Church is a Catholic church and parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was founded in 1833, and the current structure was completed in 1840. It is the second oldest parish in New Orleans (the oldest parish is St. Louis Cathedral), located upriver from the French Quarter at 724 Camp Street in what is now the Central Business District.

The interior of the nave is 85 feet (26 m) tall. Slender columns support the fan vaulting of the ceiling, which is particularly elaborate above the altar, incorporating sixteen stained glass windows in a half-dome. Three large paintings above the altar depict, from left to right: Saint Patrick, the Transfiguration of Jesus, and Jesus Christ pulling Saint Peter from the sea.

The wood plaster details are sights to behold and the gorgeous fan vaulting above the altar is a unique display of fine stained glass. The windows, the doors, the ceiling spans and columns are as they were more than a century and one-half ago.

The interior of the nave is 85 feet (26 m) tall. Slender columns support the fan vaulting of the ceiling, which is particularly elaborate above the altar, incorporating sixteen stained glass windows in a half-dome. Three large paintings above the altar depict, from left to right: Saint Patrick, the Transfiguration of Jesus, and Jesus Christ pulling Saint Peter from the sea.

Leon Pomarede, a young artist, did the huge murals behind the main altar in 1841 for $1,000 each. These are masterpieces. Once a French newspaper observed that if the artist had been executing such work in a Paris church, crowds would have gathered each day to watch him. The center mural is The Transfiguration, flanked by Christ Walking on the Water on the right, and St. Patrick himself baptizing the princess daughters of Ireland’s King Laoghaire, on the left.

The interior of the nave is 85 feet (26 m) tall. Slender columns support the fan vaulting of the ceiling, which is particularly elaborate above the altar, incorporating sixteen stained glass windows in a half-dome. Three large paintings above the altar depict, from left to right: Saint Patrick, the Transfiguration of Jesus, and Jesus Christ pulling Saint Peter from the sea.




When some churches were taking statues out, St. Patrick’s historic collection was being preserved. The cypress pews and the carved wooden pulpit were returned to their former elegance. The murals behind the main altar were completely restored in a manner similar to the restoration of the paintings in the Sistine Chapel.



Because of the rich and varied cultural heritages in New Orleans, the month of March provides unique opportunities to:  celebrate with the Irish community on March 17th, when the Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day Club hosts its parade;  with the Italian community on March 19th, when the Italian-American Marching Club hosts its parade;  and on what is known as Super Sunday (the Sunday nearest St. Joseph's Day), when the uptown and downtown tribes of the Mardi Gras Indians get together for a celebration (the only day besides Mardi Gras when you can catch a glimpse of the beautifully costumed Indians).

The architect of St. Patrick's was James Dakin, who designed a number of buildings in Louisiana, including the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Problems related to the city's notoriously high water table drew in another prominent local architect, James Gallier, to oversee the construction.







Leon Pomarede, a young artist, did the huge murals behind the main altar in 1841 for $1,000 each. These are masterpieces. Once a French newspaper observed that if the artist had been executing such work in a Paris church, crowds would have gathered each day to watch him. The center mural is The Transfiguration, flanked by Christ Walking on the Water on the right, and St. Patrick himself baptizing the princess daughters of Ireland’s King Laoghaire, on the left.



Symbols abound on St. Joseph's Altars:  Breads baked in the form of fish represent the Lenten Season.  Those in the form of carpenter's tools allude to Joseph's occupation as a carpenter.  Other symbols often used as a form for bread or other baked goods are:  sandals, staff, chalice, dove, lamb, cross, a crown of thorns, palms.

St. Patrick’s Church St. Joseph Altar in Reynolds Hall


Figs, olives and grapes are used, referring to the orchards and vineyards of Sicily.

St. Patrick’s Church St. Joseph Altar in Reynolds Hall

 Palm leaves, flowers, citrus fruit and Easter eggs, often nestled in Spanish moss, are used to decorate.

Symbols abound on St. Joseph's Altars:  Breads baked in the form of fish represent the Lenten Season.  Those in the form of carpenter's tools allude to Joseph's occupation as a carpenter.  Other symbols often used as a form for bread or other baked goods are:  sandals, staff, chalice, dove, lamb, cross, a crown of thorns, palms.


St. Patrick’s Church St. Joseph Altar in Reynolds Hall

Figs, olives and grapes are used, referring to the orchards and vineyards of Sicily.

St. Patrick’s Church St. Joseph Altar in Reynolds Hall


 Palm leaves, flowers, citrus fruit and Easter eggs, often nestled in Spanish moss, are used to decorate.

blessing after the noon Mass.

blessing after the noon Mass.

Our Lady of Guadalupe 


Our Lady of Guadalupe 

Fish on St. Joseph's altar


Fish on St. Joseph's altar

 Palm leaves, flowers, citrus fruit and Easter eggs, often nestled in Spanish moss, are used to decorate.



St. Augustine Catholic Church of New Orleans is in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was founded in 1841 under the episcopacy of Bishop Antoine Blanc.




Symbols abound on St. Joseph's Altars:  Breads baked in the form of fish represent the Lenten Season.  Those in the form of carpenter's tools allude to Joseph's occupation as a carpenter.  Other symbols often used as a form for bread or other baked goods are:  sandals, staff, chalice, dove, lamb, cross, a crown of thorns, palms.























St. Augustine Catholic Church of New Orleans is in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was founded in 1841 under the episcopacy of Bishop Antoine Blanc.


St. Augustine Catholic Church of New Orleans is in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was founded in 1841 under the episcopacy of Bishop Antoine Blanc.