What a lovely present all tied up with a red ribbon. These beautiful manuscripts are velum with brass and red ribbon closures. The beautiful documents date from 1882 to 1884 and were filed in the District Court of the Territory of the State of Montana. The documents all inform on a number of Chinese individuals who are operating a house where opium is smoked. This act violates Ordinance No. 288, which states that it is unlawful for any person within the city limits to sell opium or indulge in the use of opium. The fine for violating this ordinance is less than 100 dollars. Most of the cases pictured above were fined $30 to $55 for operating a house where opium is smoked. Opium could be prescribed by a physician under the ordinance and the substance was not nationally controlled until 1906.
The Archives also holds these impressive fiddle scales which are used to weigh opium and other herbs. The bamboo pipe was found with the scales in a vaulted sidewalk by John “The Yank” Harrington.
Many Chinese brought opium in to the Rocky Mountain West as early as the 1860s and many Western Europeans felt that the use and distribution of Opium was morally wrong and threatened the values of America. This fact became a point of discussion of the Chinese Exclusion act of 1882. (Ahmad, 1997)
For more information on the Chinese in Montana, and these great artifacts visit the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.