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Cannabis Time Capsule, 1897: Was the Aspen Times' manager hopped up on "hasheesh"?

B. Clark Wheeler.
B. Clark Wheeler.

Aspen might be a small town, but the battle for news readership has always been a fierce one -- though the insults have probably toned down (in print, at least) since 1897, when this screed from the editors of the Aspen Tribune ran bashing the editors and, more directly, the manager of the Aspen Daily Times.

But what's hash got to do with it?

July 18, 1897.
July 18, 1897.

The answer, in part, has to do with competition. The Tribune argued that the Times had failed to expand and grow, despite claims to the contrary. The Tribune editors take the Times to task for daring to enlarge the size of their paper with ads, then shrinking it back down after decreasing the size of the plate into which type was set and cutting the "dead ad matter" to produce a meager seven-folio weekly (fourteen pages).

And to what does the Tribune attribute this downfall? The "diseased brain of its bombastic manager, after he had taken an extra large dose of 'hop' or hasheesh:"

Cannabis Time Capsule, 1897: Was the Aspen Times' manager hopped up on "hasheesh"?

The real reason for the Times' drop likely had more to do with the economy of the town, though. In the 1890s, the "diseased brain" of B. Clark Wheeler managed the paper. Later a state senator, Wheeler was a (pardon the pun) wheeler-dealer in town who was instrumental in building up Aspen through the silver boom and is credited with changing the name of the town from Ute City to Aspen.

When Wheeler bought the paper in 1885, the town was booming and Wheeler saw the need for a daily (because he could sell more ads, obviously). That worked for a few years, until the silver boom ran dry and the town fell on harder times. The paper went back to being a weekly and, as evidenced by this random bit of Colorado cannabis history, shrank in other ways as well. But just for the sake of adding some controversy to history, we'd like to also assume that Wheeler had a known taste for hash and that this jab wasn't just comical -- it was personal.

In the end, the Times had the last laugh. The Tribune folded in 1891, just four years after this editorial was published, while the Times went back to being a daily in the 1950s and still publishes to this day.

For more Colorado marijuana history, check out our Cannabis Time Capsule archive.


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