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Opium was a very considerable business in the nineteenth century, and not just in China. People in Britain and America – women in particular – took a lot of opium, too, mostly in the form of medicinal paregoric and laudanum. Imports of opium to the United States went from 24,000 pounds in 1840 to no less than 400,000 pounds in 1872, and it was women who mostly sucked it down, though quite a lot was given to children, too, as a treatment for croup. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s grandfather Warren Delano made much of the family’s fortune by trading opium, a fact that the Roosevelt family has never exactly crowed about.

Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, 2010


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