Opium: The Business Of Addiction

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In the early 19th c., New England traders moved from slave-trading to selling opium to the Chinese in exchange for tea, an American obsession at the time. Other domestic products were exported from China for American use: silk, nankeen, porcelain, and artwork. Along with the Cabots, Peabodys, Delanos, Endicotts, Coolidges and other Boston Brahmin families, eleven members of the extended Forbes family were involved in the “China Trade,” spanning the years 1784 to 1887 and including the First and Second Opium Wars. 

Guided tours will tell the story of the Forbes family’s involvement in the 19th c. opium trade, its links to the current opioid epidemic, and its lasting impact on US-Sino relations. The exhibition was developed in partnership with the Milton Coalition (formerly the Milton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition) and the Milton Public Library. Current events, including the latest facts on the opioid epidemic, the impact of the COVID pandemic on those who have substance use disorders, and research into new treatments, will be explored in the Historical Resource Room at the Milton Public Library.