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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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Last updated 14 September 2005

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