Lincoln's Drug Use; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), January 18, 2019 | Go to article overview

Lincoln's Drug Use; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Complied by Charles Legge

QUESTION Was US president Abraham Lincoln a cocaine addict? ABRAHAM Lincoln (1809-1865) was famously abstemious and it is highly unlikely that he was a cocaine user, despite the fact that it was legal.

While a member of Congress, he was once criticised by a friend for declining to taste rare wines provided by their host. Lincoln replied: 'I meant no disrespect, but I promised my precious mother, only a few days before she died, that I would never use anything intoxicating as a beverage, and I consider the promise as binding today as it was the day I gave it.' Lincoln understood the difference between its use - as in medicines - and abuse. He kept a store account at the Corneau & Diller drugstore in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, where he began his political career. From 1855 to 1861, records show that he purchased such items as brandy and liniment containing hemlock and laudanum, among many other preparations.

It came as a surprise, therefore, when historian Henry E. Pratt, writing in his Personal Finances of Abraham Lincoln in 1943, claimed that, on October 12, 1860, Lincoln had purchased a bottle of cocaine for 50 cents.

Pundits have noted that October 1860 was a month before the presidential election. Lincoln would have been exhausted from the rigours of the campaign, the challenges of his busy law practice and demands of a parent. Perhaps he needed a boost. Not to mention, Lincoln was well known for his battles with depression.

However, subsequent examination by Ronald K. Siegel, author of Intoxication: The Universal Drive For Mind-Altering Substances, showed that Lincoln had, in fact, purchased a substance called Cocoaine. This spelling was sometimes used for coca extract products such as coca wine, and cocaine-based local anaesthetic preparations, far less potent than refined cocaine.

But it was also the trade name for a coconut-oil hair product sold in 50-cent bottles and manufactured by the Joseph Burnett Company in Boston. It seems probable that Lincoln's purchase of Cocoaine was for his hair, not for his energy levels. Indeed, the following week he started growing a beard and, the next month, he was elected the 16th president of the United States.

Maxine Colley, Manchester.

QUESTION Five brothers, the Baldock-Apps, were killed in action in World War I. Was this a record for one family? FURTHER to the answer that told a remarkable story of survival among the carnage of World War I, my father was one of six brothers, five of whom served in combat during the war, all of whom survived.

George was in the RAMC and survived a shipwreck while returning from Salonika to the UK for leave.

James, who had emigrated to Australia in 1908, was a medic in the Australian Army. He served in France.

Jack, my father, was in the Buffs and served in the Somme. A shrapnel wound made him unfit for further service.

Charles, who had emigrated to Australia in 1911, was in the Australian infantry. He served in France and suffered a minor gunshot wound to the hand. Tom, a motorcycle despatch rider in the Middlesex Regiment, was awarded the Military Medal for bravery.

The sixth son, Howard, was medically unfit for service and ran the family farm while his brothers were away.

John Gosden, Aylesford, Kent.

QUESTION What is the origin of the song that begins 'Cherry ripe, Ripe I cry'? …

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