Witness Seminar: HIV/AIDS Prison Policy in England and Wales, 1980s-1990s

Editor’s Note: Recently Drs. Janet Weston and (current ADHS president) Virginia Berridge hosted a witness seminar, a method of oral history collection through group recollections, on the development of prison policy regarding HIV/AIDS since the early 1980s at LSHTM’S Centre for History in Public Health. Below is a more thorough description of the event that may be of interest Points readers. Contact Dr. Weston for more information at janet.weston@lshtm.ac.uk.


The seminar in progress

As part of the Prisoners, Medical Care, and Entitlement to Health project, we organised a witness seminar in May 2017 as an opportunity for key individuals to discuss their experiences and memories of the development of prison policy around HIV/AIDS. Continue reading

Shroomer Publications

Editor’s Note: This cross-posting is part of a series featuring items from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo collection recently acquired by Harvard University’s Houghton Library. Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, Gretchen Wade, and Judith Warnement of Harvard’s Botany Libraries for contributing the original post at Houghton’s Modern Books and Manuscripts blog.

What to do if you are looking for the “ultimate guide for safe mushroom picking”? Frank and Cheeri Rinaldo had the answer in 1979 with Safe-pik, a flip book of handy mushroom identification cards featuring photographs by John W. Allen. Measuring only about 2 1/2 by 4 inches it could easily fit in your pocket and deals mainly with Psilocybins, the type of mushrooms that contain a naturally occurring psychedelic compound. There is a helpful disclaimer that children should not take mushrooms, one should never trespass, and that mushrooms should be used for the purpose they were intended … mind expansion.


Safe-pik mushroom identification cards / [Frank & Cheeri Rinaldo; photographs by John Allen]. [Seattle?]: Shroomer Publications, c1979.

Visual identification of mushrooms is hardly a new concept, as seen by the German publication Naturgeschichte des Pflanzenreiches in Bildern by Dr. Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert.

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Drugs and the Military

Editor’s note: As a law professor, Buford Terrell specialized in controlled substances law. He now hosts a public interest television program in Houston called Drugs, Crime, and Politics, produced by the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, and publishes a blog called Marijuana Musings and Drug Law Diversions. We cross-post this recent entry of his because it surveys the use of drugs by American personnel in various armed conflicts, with the aim of generating interest in the topic among students and historians.

This piece is a confession of ignorance. I’m going to tell you what I don’t know about drug use in the military in hopes I can attract the eye of some historian eager to spend a little time – perhaps a few decades – excavating through musty warehouses crammed with military records.

The ignorance I am talking about here is about how much drug use has taken place in the American military and what effect, if any, that use has had on military structure, discipline, and effectiveness. While I am woefully ignorant, I have found some clues indicating that more knowledge about those questions is available and can be discovered.  These clues are tantalizing and I’ll share them with you in hopes that you can add to them or share them with a historian who may want to do the work. I’ve arranged these clues by the major military engagements the U. S. has had, beginning with the Civil War.

Civil War: Many people know that after the Civil War, opiate dependency was known as the “Old Soldier’s Disease,” but most of these addictions probably came from treatments for intractable and neuropathic pain incurred after the patients had left the army. At least one report has surfaced of a Union officer who made his troops drink a daily dose of opium to prevent dysentery.

Continue reading

The Tobacco Census v. “Ffrauds and Mischiefs”

Editor’s Note: Featured is another installment in our occasional series of fascinating cross-postings from the blogs published by various libraries and archives. Today’s post comes from Out of the Box: Notes from the Archives @ The Library of Virginia, and was authored by Sarah Nerney, senior local records archivist. 

Virginia’s agricultural production, as well as its economy, was dominated by tobacco for over three centuries, ever since John Rolfe sent his first shipment of tobacco to England in 1614. Growth of the Virginia colony and extension into the interior meant more soil and larger crops of tobacco. Despite the continuous growth in production, the tobacco trade was plagued by falling prices and decreased quality. By the 1720s, tobacco exports included large quantities of inferior product that even included shipments of “trash” tobacco—shipments that diluted tobacco leaves with foreign substances such as household sweepings. Consequently the price of tobacco sank so low that many planters struggled to recover production costs.

Tobacco growing in the streets of Jamestown. From Robert K. Heimann, Tobacco and Americans (1960). Image courtesy of Library of Virginia Special Collections.

Tobacco growing in the streets of Jamestown. From Robert K. Heimann, Tobacco and Americans (1960). Image courtesy of Library of Virginia Special Collections.

In 1723 Virginia’s General Assembly passed the first of its Tobacco Acts that attempted to control the quantity and quality of tobacco grown in the colony because it was believed that “most of the ffrauds [sic] and mischiefs which have been complained of in the Tobacco Trade” had arisen from the “planting on land not proper for producing good Tobacco” and the production of “greater Crops than the persons employed therein are able duly to tend.” The 1723 act established limits on the number of plants that certain classes of persons could grow with slave owners being allowed fewer plants. Each vestry of every parish had to appoint two people every year to count the number of plants being grown and report the numbers to the clerk of court by the month of August. Any number of plants over the allowed number were to be destroyed by the planter or, if the planter would not, by the counters. The act of 1729 provided various adjustments to and elaborations on the 1723 act. (For full text of the acts see The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 20, pp. 158-178.)

Continue reading

The Book of Smoke

Editor’s Note: This cross-posting is part of a series featuring items from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo collection recently acquired by Harvard University’s Houghton Library. Thanks to rare book cataloger Ryan Wheeler for producing the original post at Houghton’s Modern Books and Manuscripts blog.

The opium dens prevalent in France and the United States during the 19th century, as well as the culture surrounding them, resulted in copious literature, such as this rarely-seen work: Le livre de la fumée, by French author, musicologist, and student of Chinese culture Louis Laloy. This treatise on opium’s use and history both domestically and in China features a preface by Claude Farrère, author of the novel Fumée d’opium. It was published in 1915 by Dorbon-Ainé in a lavish limited edition of 220 numbered copies with illustrations throughout.

Fumee-1-largeThe Santo Domingo Collection includes several of the 220 copies; the one shown here is bound in full tan morocco with gilt stamping and embroidered cloth endsheets by the French bindery Marius Michel. The binding preserves the publisher’s original wrappers, themselves sumptuously illustrated in color.

Continue reading


A new post at “Out of the Box,” the Library of Virginia’s blog, has caught Points’ attention once again.  It tells of a new film chronicling the exploits of the bootlegging Bondurant brothers of Frankline County, Virginia and, as well, provides links to archived documents relating to the seizure of automobiles used in the illicit liquor trade.  Points warmly thanks the Library of Virginia for permission to republish this right-up-our-alley content.  –R.R.

On 29 August, the movie Lawless, starring Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman, and Jessica Chastain, opens around the country. Based on the bestselling novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, the film tells the story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers – bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Franklin County, Virginia, reputed to be the “Moonshine Capital of the World.” Much of the film’s action centers around moonshiners paying “protection money” to corrupt local authorities to guarantee their loads of moonshine would be safe in the county. The Bondurant brothers refused to cooperate and ended up paying the consequences.

Part fiction, part family history, the movie Lawless tells the story of the Franklin County bootleggers, but what about the automobiles used to run their moonshine? Their stories can be found at the Library of Virginia in the Franklin County Determined Papers and Franklin County Common Law Papers. Automobiles used by bootleggers were seized by law officers when bootleggers were arrested and reported to the local Commonwealth’s Attorney who would file a criminal charge in the name of the Commonwealth against the automobile, e.g., “Commonwealth vs. REO Roadster Automobile.” These documents record the date of seizure, type and make of automobile, license number, engine number, and reason for seizure. The automobile would then be condemned and sold at an auction at the courthouse. Given the extent of bootlegging in Franklin County, the front of the courthouse may have looked like a used car lot at times.

The sales contract between the alleged bootlegger and the finance company or car dealer was commonly filed with the party defendant’s petition to the court. It recorded whether the automobile was new or used; year, make, type, and model number or letter; motor number; price of automobile; payment schedule; names and addresses of dealership and purchaser. Based on a sampling of the suits, the alleged bootleggers generally purchased their automobiles outside Franklin County and in some instances outside the Commonwealth.

The Prohibition-era Franklin County Determined Papers and Common Law Papers are unprocessed but available for research in the Local Records Collection at the Library of Virginia. For more information on Prohibition in Virginia, see the Virginia Prohibition Commission Records, 1916-1934, found in the State Records Collection at the Library of Virginia.

-Greg Crawford, Local Records Coordinator

Pick Up Some Beer for a Long Weekend: The American History Guys on Alcohol

Points readers may have noticed that since the hot weather began, we are no longer observing our usual OCD practice of “new content daily,” but instead enjoying a rather “slack-ademic” posting schedule.  This will certainly be the case for the next few days as we gear up to celebrate Independence Day– as Floridians your editorial team will observe the holiday by setting off massive fireworks displays in the backyard while drinking icy cold malt liquor.

This Is Not Your Points Editors, but It Could (Should?) Be

For those who simply must have some alcohol and drugs history to get them through the weekend, we suggest checking out the most recent episode of the excellent radio documentary, “BackStory with the American History Guys.” Its entitled “Cheers and Jeers: Alcohol in America.”  (Also available in podcast form at the itunes store.)  The History Guys have the following to say about this production:

The cliche may be  that apple pie is the most quintessentially American of foods but, in truth, hard apple cider might stake a more rightful claim to that title. Alcohol and our taste for it has shaped this country from its inception, when the founding fathers themselves played a role in encouraging our national hankering for the hard stuff: Jefferson loved his hard cider and wine, Washington had a thing for rum, and Benjamin Franklin loved it all so much he compiled a list of 228 synonyms for “drunk” into what is known as “The Drinker’s Dictionary.”

In this hour of BackStory, we’re all about the boozin’.  Along the way, we ask when and why consumption and production has ebbed and flowed. We  look at why rum became the drink of choice among revolutionary troops, explore why American Indians were rejecting alcohol two centuries before the rest of the country, and follow the long march toward Prohibition. Originally produced a few years ago, this episode has been revised to include new segments and reflect fresh insight into the subject.

Guests Include:

  • Sarah Hand Meacham, Associate Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • James Morone, Professor of Political Science and Urban Studies, Brown University
  • Peter Mancall, Professor of History and Anthropology, University of Southern California

Nora Volkow Explains (Not Really) Why People Don’t Become Addicted

Editor’s note: Points is happy today to republish our friend Stanton Peele’s recent commentary on the new Cambridge study of sibling pairs and addiction.  Not many of us here at Points are real hardcore quants, but even we were scratching our heads at these findings.  In brief: researchers looked at sibling pairs in which one sibling was an addict and the other was not, and claimed that the disparate responses prove that addiction is an inherited brain dysfunction.  50% addicts + 50% not addicts = 100% brain diseased?  But don’t take our word for it; let Stanton Peele to do the math.

You have heard about the earth-shaking new study proving that addicts inherit a brain dysfunction that causes them to have poor impulse control?

The Cambridge Brains

Published in the most prestigious fundamental research journal in the world, Science, investigators at Cambridge found that siblings, half of whom were drug-abusers/addicts and half of whom were not, shared this trait.  This proved to the researchers that the brain anomaly preceded the drug abuse, and was not a result of it.

Here, let’s turn to Nora Volkow (as Science itself did) for an explanation:

“The inferior frontal gyrus is really one of the main ‘brakes’ of our brain,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study in Science. “[Drug users and their siblings] have less [sic] connections that are linking the rest of brain with the inferior frontal gyrus [and other key regions] that form a network that allows you to inhibit responses.”

Run that by me again.  A study showing a brain dysfunction that somehow causes addiction led in half of siblings to drug abuse and in the other half didn’t?  Doesn’t that make us want to learn what accounted for the siblings with the brain anomaly not becoming addicted? Continue reading

Freaky Friday: Cross-Posting Gary Laderman on “LSD”

Editor’s Note: Today marks the third in a series of cross-postings from the Social Science Research Council’s Frequencies project– earlier posts from that “genealogy of spirituality” examined the AA Big Book and Marijuana.  Here, in a piece that’s sure to get that Freaky Friday groove on, Emory University Professor of Religion Gary Laderman explores LSD’s contribution to the contemporary spiritual landscape of the US.  The original illustration from the Frequencies site is by Joe Meiser.

Joe Meiser, "Mobile Transcendence Device," 2008

Picture yourself on a train in a station,
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties.
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile,
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

— The Beatles,
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (1967)

When I was 17 I dropped my first tab of acid. A friend and I excused ourselves from school, drove to Chatsworth Park in the San Fernando Valley, and tripped for about seven hours. The experience was breathtaking, to say the least: the blue sky and clouds took on geometric shapes and impossible proportions; when I waved my hand in front of my face it left multicolored trails and incandescent traces that confounded my sense of bodily space; I was overcome with a strange and powerful love for all of humanity that seemed to be personally exhilarating and cosmically liberating at the same time; and an indescribable awareness of inner light and profound insight overwhelmed my consciousness that was as mystical as it was psychologically illuminating.

The year was 1979, way beyond the psychedelic and tumultuous decade of the 1960s often associated with drug experimentation and mind-expanding possibilities with altered states of consciousness. But it is a fitting anecdote to begin this essay for one specific reason: it was through the ingestion of LSD that I came to understand the utility and value of the word “spirituality.” Previous to this experience the only thing I knew about religion was based entirely on the many years of Sunday school and endless hours of Hebrew school at my reform Jewish temple in preparation for my Bar Mitzvah several years earlier. What I experienced under the influence was nothing like religion as I knew it, and while I had heard the word “spirituality” used occasionally over the years, I had no idea what it referred to until my psychedelic trip in Chatsworth Park. After that day the meaning of the word spirituality became crystal clear to me and I began to use it more frequently in my own speech and imagination to identify perspectives and experiences that were decidedly not about religion, and most assuredly about sacred insights, expansive consciousness, transcendence of the body, and inner knowledge.

Unlocking the Doors of Perception

The point I would like to make here—and in an effort now to shift the narrative from personal confessional to cultural analysis—is that LSD contributed to a society-wide awareness of spirituality as a viable and meaningful alternative to institutional religion. LSD was itself a trip through categorical space, a tab that transitioned a tripping public from one idea of experience to another, from an idea of religion to one of spirituality. Even with the obvious dangers and bad trips associated with LSD, use of this drug and the public commentary about it provided Americans with a vocabulary to describe personal religious experiences utterly disconnected from conventional language used to identify the sacred, and not quite tethered to but not completely separated from the deep-rooted histories of spirituality provided by Leigh Schmidt in Restless Souls and Catherine Albanese in A Republic of Mind and Spirit.

In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, LSD was, for many, a potent manufactured sacrament that unlocked the doors of perception in an American culture imprisoned by theological conformity, blew open the boundaries of religious experience hemmed in by doctrine and narrow ideas about social propriety, and legitimated popular cultural transformations that idealized notions of inner truth, self-seeking personal illumination, and consciousness expansion. In other words, experiences with LSD and the publicity surrounding them gave shape and content to modern understandings of spirituality. Continue reading

Cross-Posting: Luís León and the “Cannabis Club”

Editor’s Note: This is the second cross-posting that Points is proud to feature from the Freq.uenci.es project, a “collaborative genealogy of spirituality” sponsored by the Social Science Research Council’s Working Group on Spirituality, Political Engagement, and Public Life.  (Our first cross-posting, on Bill W. and the Big Book, appeared earlier this fall).  Today’s offering is by Luís León, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Denver; the spectacular lead illustration is by Joseph Mastroianni.

Joseph Mastroianni, "Exploding Creamsicle"

Counted among my pantheon of personal heroes while growing up in California’s East Bay area were Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. I was a strange kid. I still sometimes mimic Cheech’s purposefully exaggerated Chicano accent, American English with a Spanish rhythm and Aztec intonation, also known as Calo or Mexican American “Spanglish.” It’s a sound distinct to the borderlands experience; the echo of Aztlan: the Chicana/o mythical homeland; a sanctuary; a pipe dream. When I speak like Cheech to my close friend and academic colleague, who I affectionately call Chong, we deploy a linguistic code decipherable sometimes only by us, and perhaps a few other confidantes. Referring to four twenty, I often say “los santos,” or just santos, which translates loosely as “the saints.” We conspire in our devotion to them. Like the Rastafarians, the practice becomes a sacred ritual. For us, praying to the saints, our muertos, is an attempt to connect to the divine; a gestural offering in hopes of elevating our spirits to Elysium; the mythical land of the triumphantly dead, or physically displaced, the heavenly space where the souls of heroes dwell. Aztlan by another name. This, I believe, is how my Chicano hero, Cheech Marin, understands his devotion to los santos.

It’s appropriate that Cheech, a Mexican American, would open the artistic space for the popularization and promotion of marijuana into the soul of American popular culture. Continue reading