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        1. Making & Selling Opium  提煉. 包装
a.    Victoria: the largest opium making center outside Asia  域埠- 欧美鴉片烟总汇  [updated 08/22/12]
a1.   Canada's other opium makers: Vancouver, New Westminster, Nanaimo [posted 01/09/11]
b.    Refining and packaging opium for sale  [posted 8/9/09]
c.    Opium brand names 鴉片烟牌子 [updated 11/16/09]
d.    More opium brand names: from gold mining sites in the Cariboo  [updated 01/18/10]
d1   Even more opium brand names, from Idaho's AACC [posted 3/3/11]
d2   Opium cans from Australia  [posted 2/6/12]
d3   More opium brands from Australia: the Hong Kong-North American connection  [posted 2/23/12]
d4   Even more, this time from Victoria in the South, not Queensland in the North  [posted 3/6/2015]
d5   The best-dated opium brands: from railroad camps in Montana [posted 3/6/12]
f      Opium cans or "tins" 鴉片烟 [posted 8/14/09]
g.    Opium cans of the prohibited period 1909年禁烟以后的洋烟罐  [updated 1/17/11]
g1   Kwangchow-Wan brands and the French connection [posted 1/17/11, updated 3/26/13]
g2   Opium smuggling and Lam Kee's opium factory in Macao [posted 3/26/13]
h.    Fake opium brands in San Francisco 三藩市冒牌鴉片烟  [posted 9/6/09]
h1   Counterfeiting Hong Kong opium  [posted 9/15/12]
h2   Paper Labels on Opium Cans  [posted 4/18/11]
i..    Commercial trickery in Canadian opium labeling  [posted 12/28/10]
j..    Opium Retailers in San Francisco, 1900-1904  三藩市鴉片烟华商  [posted 12/17/09]
k..    Triumph of 19th century chemistry: making Middle Eastern opium smokable 土耳其鴉片 [12/29/09]
l..    Direct evidence of a Middle East/Balkans to Pacific Northwest connection  [posted 12/29/09]
m.   A public-spirited narcotics cartel?  The modest profits of Victoria's opium refiners  [posted 08/21/12]
n.    Chinese sources for opium market prices in the U.S   [posted 11/29/16]

        2.Smuggling Opium, 1880-1920    走私
a.    A future prime minister discovers in 1908 that Canada refines and exports opium  [posted 9/2/09]
b.    A governor-general and his wife visit a Victoria opium "factory" in 1895  [posted 11/10/09]
c.    Smuggling incidents and tales  個案  [updated 8/14/09]
d.    More smuggling incidents and tales  The Great Smuggling Ring, 1893 [posted 12/15/09]
d1. "A prepossessing young widow" from Port Angeles [posted 01/24/12]
e.    "The pretty smuggler and her pathetic story"  [posted 11/1/09]
f..    A fashionable young lady gets caught with a half-ton of opium  [updated 12/17/09]
g.    Diving for opium in Puget Sound: a true story   打捞  [updated 10/1/09]

        3Opium Use  煙友
a.    Opium equipment in the U.S., 1896   煙具  [posted 8/1/09]
b.    How opium pipes worked  [posted 10/8/09]
c.    Opium pipe bowls show Chinese immigrants' middle-class aspirations  [posted 10/8/09]
d.    Connoisseurs' pipe bowls from Yixing and Shiwan 宜兴, 石湾的烟斗  [updated 10/19/09]
e.    Brand dominance in the opium pipe bowl trade  [posted 10/27/09]
e1   Pipe bowl brands found in both America and Australia  [posted 2/23/12]
f.     North American opium lamps [posted 11/3/09]
g.    Commerce in opium lamp chimneys 烟灯灯罩广告[posted 12/1/09]
h.    An addicted white prostitute testifies, 1885  白种妓人中烟毒  [posted 8/17/09]
i.     How much opium did white Americans use?  The Iowa case [posted 12/19/09]
i-1.  Marketing opium to white-Americans before 1914 [posted 7/15/2012]
j.     The opium addicts of Albany, NY [posted 12/21/09]
k.    Opium suicides  [posted 12/17/10]

        4Banning Opium and Curing Addicts 禁烟, 戒烟
a.    Turning Point: The 1909 Shanghai Conference 上海万国禁烟会  [posted 10/15/09]
b.    Addiction Cures for North American Chinese  [posted 10/15/09]
c.    Curing addicts and outlawing the opium trade: the missionary connection  [posted 10/19/09]
d.    British Columbia defends Britain against Opium War slander [posted12/28/09]
e.    The Addict's Progress: anti-opium propaganda in China, 1883 [posted 04/21/11]
f.     The "Smoking Opium Exclusion Act" of 1909 What did it actually prohibit?  [posted 11/29/16]

        5.  Opium and Anti-Chinese Propaganda  
a.     Lurid pictures of opium dens [posted 05/30/10, updated 04/18/11]
b.      Exaggerating harm from opium use [posted 05/30/10]
Making & Selling
Banning & Curing
Thia page was added in November 2017 due to lack of space on the other two opium pages.  Future articles on Chinese opium in North America will appear here
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This page was last updated: August 15, 2019
Chinese Sources for Opium Market Prices in the U.S. 

Much has been written about Chinese American opium use from a European American standpoint.  However, much relevant data exists in a source that has not previously been consulted: the early Chinese-language press in the United States.  An example: the rise and fall of opium prices in California, which were far more closely tracked in Chinese newspapers than in official or unofficial English-language records.   In this essay the editors have pulled together market information from several San Francisco Chinese newspapers (Note 1), in order to get a sense of the types and prices of  smokable opium (see below, Sources) available in U.S. markets before 1910.  

Californian records of wholesale prices for smokable opium go back to 1854, when individual ships brought between 5 and 13 chests of opium to San Francisco, along with other items from the Far East.  The quantity grew fast;  in 1856 eight ships brought 156 chests in July and August alone.   At 100 catties 斤 or 1600 liang两per chest, this was a fairly large amount: about 50,000 of the 5-liang cans in which opium was sold at retail.  As one such can might have lasted a moderately heavy user for a year, it is evident that 156 chests was not nearly enough to meet the needs of the several hundred thousand Chinese residing in California at that time.  Much more must have come in on other ships or by more clandestine routes.

Prices for refined opium at the wholesale level were usually quoted in terms not of cans but of 100-liang (8.33-pound) units.  In 1874 the wholesale price for legally imported, top quality duty-paid opium was $165.  This dropped steadily in later years, reaching about $136 in 1876 before rising again to $161 in 1887.  Those two years, 1874 and 1887, marked the peak prices of smokable opium before it became illegal in 1909.  Otherwise pricing was fairly steady: it never went below $100 and usually hovered in the $130-$140 range.  Customs duties on smokable (but not on other) opium rose from $6 to $10 per pound in 1883 and then to $12 in 1890.  However, these increases seem not to have affected wholesale prices.
Why?  Perhaps public-spirited opium dealers swallowed occasional losses for their customers’ sakes.  Or perhaps other factors were at work.  The first such factor was the black market trade in cheaper opium smuggled in from Canada and other places,  The second was competition from other opium products. The smuggling of opium is discussed elsewhere on this website.  Competitive opium products included opiates for eating, drinking, or injecting; those too are discussed elsewhere on this site.  Here, however, we want to discuss substitutes for legally imported opium suitable for smoking.

The Chinese-language newspapers show in much more detail how competition forced down prices.  The two commanding opium brands, Lai Yuen 丽源 and Fook Lung 福隆, both products of Hong Kong and Macao, had been the most desirable, expensive types since the 1870s.   In 1887, however, wholesale sellers began to advertise a “locally made” opium [Tuzhu 土煮], which was sold at $75 per 100 liang, less than half the price of Lai Yuen and Fook Lung.   The price of Tuzhu opium soon fell even further, seesawing between $40 and $45 until 1905 when it disappeared   A slightly more expensive type of locally made opium, referred to on the wholesale market as “second-top opium” [Shang-er 上二], sold for $45 to $50. 
Consumers had even more choices in opium types during those later years.   From 1900 onwards one finds new brand names in the wholesale market.  A brand called Li Cheng 利成 appeared once in 1900 at $108, when Lai Yuen and Fook Lung were selling at $121.  Then in 1902 and 1903 two other brands, Fu He 福和 and Fu Yuan 福源, appeared in the newspapers at an asking price of $96 to $107 per 100 liang.  Lai Yuen and Fook Lung reached their all-time lows during those years, fetching just a few dollars more than their competitors.  Their manufacturer in Macao put out announcements in newspapers in about this time, warning about forgeries of their superior products and stamps. And sure enough, in 1906 and 1907 brands called “star mark” 星墨 Fook Lung and Lai Yuen were listed at $129 per 100 liang.  This was $10 less than the “authentic” ones without star marks.  
The U.S. government’s Smoking Opium Exclusion Act of February 9, 1909 banned the importation of opium for smoking as of  April 1, 1909 [see next article], and within a few months California had passed a law outlawing the sale and mere possession if the drug—the first such law in American history. Wholesale prices of smoking-type opium continued to be listed until November of 1909 but, as one would expect, those prices skyrocketed.  Both Lai Yuen and Fook Lung sold for $200 per 100 liang in February 1909.  The price rose to $800 in April and $1,400 in June before off at $1,000 for the next few months.  The price after November is not known to us;  the drug was no longer listed in Chinese wholesale market reports.   

Sources:  Our information comes from issues of several Chinese-language newspapers published in San Francisco: <1> San Francisco Chinese News 旧金山唐人新闻 (1875); <2> The Orientals (Tangfan gongbao唐番公报)(1876);  <3> The Oriental Chinese Newspaper (Huayang Huaji Xinbao華洋華记新报)(1887); >4> The American Chinese Commercial (Huamei Xinbao, Suiji 華美新報-萃记)(1894);  <5> Chung Sai Yat Po 中西日报 (1900-1910). Of these, Chung Sai Yat Po is available in several libraries.  The others are hard to get. 

Note: the links in this table of contents are not yet functional.  To find the following articles, go to Opium or Opium-2 and click on the links there.
The "Smoking Opium Exclusion Act" of 1909.  What did it actually prohibit?

Several websites, including the current Wikipedia entry for “the Smoking Opium Exclusion Act,” state that the Act prohibited the possession and use of opium.  This is incorrect.  The 1909 Act only banned the importation of opium as prepared for smoking.  Possession and use of smoking opium were not prohibited at the federal level until June 1913, when Congress passed a bill titled “HR 1966. Reenactment of Opium Exclusion Act.”  The importing, possession, and use of other forms of opium did not begin to be regulated until the Harrison Act of 1914,

The 1909 bill reads as follows.  Iit should be noted that the bill's title was not, as sometimes stated,“The Smoking Opium Exclusion Act.”  It may have been intended to have that effect, but on the surface it was an act to prohibit the importation of all opium, whether or not prepared for smoking, unless for use as medicine.

SIXTIETH CONGRESS, February 9, 1909

HR 27427.  Act to prohibit the importation and use of opium for other than medicinal purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That after the first day of April, nineteen hundred and nine, it shall be unlawful to import into the United States opium in any form or any preparation or derivative thereof: Provided, that opium and preparations and derivatives thereof, other than smoking opium or opium prepared for smoking, may be imported for medicinal purposes only, under regulations which the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized to prescribe, and when so imported shall be subject to the duties which are now or may hereafter be imposed by law
Sec. 2. That if any person shall fraudulently or knowingly import or bring into the United States, or assist in so doing, any opium or any preparation or derivative thereof contrary to law, or shall receive, conceal, buy, sell, or in any manner facilitate the transportation, concealment, or sale of- such opium or preparation or derivative thereof after importation, knowing the same to have been imported contrary to law, such opium or preparation or derivative thereof shall be forfeited and shall be destroyed, and the offender shall be fined in any sum not exceeding five thousand dollars nor less than fifty dollars, or by imprisonment for any time not exceeding two years, or both.  Whenever, on trial for a violation of this section, the defendant is shown to have, or to have had, possession of such opium or preparation or derivative thereof, such possession shall be deemed sufficient evidence to authorize conviction unless the defendant shall explain the possession to the satisfaction of the jury.

Approved, February 9, 1909
As the drafters of the 1913 bill pointed out, the 1909 version had almost no effect on the booming trade in Middle Eastern opium for drinking and eating, or on trade in injectable drugs like morphine and heroin,  All became legal as soon as a doctor affirmed they were medical.  Because the law explicitly banned opium prepared for smoking, the 1909 drafters seem to have been aiming mainly at Chinese.  And it was still legal to possess and use smoking opium, just as long as it had been imported before April 1, 1909.  The problem was that newly smuggled-in opium was often repackaged in old pre-a909 cans.