Nevada History Lecture – Smoking-Opium and Opium Dens in Nevada and the American West

Event Series Event Series: Nevada History Lectures

June 15 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Nevada History Lecture

June 15, 2024
1:00 to 2:30pm

“Smoking-Opium and Opium Dens in Nevada and the American West”

Dr. Diana Ahmad
Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita of American history at Missouri University Science & Technology
NHS Q Book Review Editor

The Opium Debate Book

Summary of Talk

Opium-smoking conjures up images of dark, secretive back-alley rooms, the sweet smells of cooking opium, and an old Chinese man sitting in the dimly lit “den of iniquity” preparing the drug for his customers. The business of smoking-opium was much like any other enterprise; however, this business resulted in allegedly dangerous consequences for the United States. Opponents of smoking-opium demanded a law banning the immigration of the Chinese in order to stop the flow of the drug into the country. Partially in response to these demands, the federal government passed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Many believed that without the Chinese, there would be no smoking-opium. If that meant excluding the Chinese from the nation, then that was all right with them. Dr. Ahmad’s book “The Opium Debate and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the Nineteenth-Century American West” was published by the University of Nevada Press.

Dr. Diana Ahmad, historian

Speaker Bio

Dr. Diana Ahmad is a Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita of American history at Missouri University of Science and Technology. She specializes in the history of the American West, with areas of interest in vice (smoking opium and prostitution), as well as animals on the overland trails. In addition, Ahmad researches the expansion of the United States into the Pacific. Ahmad is also the Book Review Editor for the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly. Currently, she is retired and working on a book about American tourists in the Pacific from 1880-1914. Ahmad received her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in 1997 and her B.A. (1974) and M.A. (1979) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

We will have Dr. Ahmad’s books available in our museum store for purchase.

Make sure to arrive early as we have limited seating available in our Event Space. Don’t forget, we provide free, temporary parking permits to make it easier to visit NHS!



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Sheryln Hayes-Zorn
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Reno, NV 89503 United States
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