The 1950s “War on Narcotics”: Harry Anslinger, The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and Senator Price Daniel’s Probe

William J. Horvath

Several primary sources related to the U.S. government were central to my essay. I drew heavily upon the Harry Anslinger papers, which contain a variety of crucial documents related to Anslinger, the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. This collection gave me key insights into how this Treasury Department Enforcement Agency operated in the 1950s. Yale's library was incredibly helpful at helping me secure a copy of these papers contained on 35mm microfilm. Additionally, I traveled to Liberty Texas, to examine the Price Daniel Papers, which allowed me to a far deeper and more granular look at his narcotics probe. These sources illustrated how his congressional office operated during the period. Importantly, they documented his propaganda efforts and provided evidence that he aimed to use his Senate probe to benefit his 1956 Texas gubernatorial campaign. I also drew heavily on a variety of other legislative documents, which were necessary to understanding the development of punitive legislation in the 1950s. These sources revealed how the legislative and executive branches worked together to pass punitive narcotics legislation in the 1950s and silenced dissenting voices such as the New York Academy of Medicine.

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