Tuesday, December 8th, 2015...1:40 pm

Documenting an activist and his cause

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The volume pictured here, C.K.C. – his book, chronicles the efforts of a little-known activist to establish international limitations on the opium trade. Charles Kittredge Crane (1881-1932) dedicated himself singly to this cause, which culminated in three League of Nations conventions held in Geneva: the first and second back-to-back in 1924 and 1925, and the third in 1931.

These conventions came at a time when opium and its derivatives were only recently under regulation in the United States. In the first years of the twentieth century, American access to opium was common, albeit restricted to pharmaceutical channels. The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 technically enacted new taxes on opiates rather than criminalizing them, but in practice diminished supply and stigmatized use in a manner tantamount to prohibition; where addicts were once prescribed limited doses of drugs, they were now facing mass incarceration.


Following from such legal activity in the United States and elsewhere, the League of Nations conventions were early attempts to establish controls on the manufacture, distribution, and sale of these drugs on an international scale. (While the United States never joined the League, it encouraged the conferences to convene.) C.K.C. – His book is a facsimile compilation of papers by Crane pertaining to these conferences, providing information on the extent of the opium trade of the time and recommendations for its limitation. Included are pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and typescript documents.


C.K.C. – His book bears no publication statement, nor even a title page; rather, the title is stamped on the front cover. The foreword is written by the journalist John Palmer Gavit, an associate of Crane’s and himself an author of a book investigating the opium trade; as the conclusory item in the volume is Crane’s obituary, it seems likely Gavit is both compiler and publisher of this volume. The number of copies printed was likely quite small; today, two others are known to exist. One resides at the Bibliothèque de Genève; the other as part of an archival collection of Crane’s papers at the Library of Congress.


C.K.C. – His book: HV5800.C63 1932x.


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