Mark Twain

The Rise and Fall of Mark Twain’s Hypothetical Cocaine Empire

We all know Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a Mark Twain) for his historical and all-American novels. They’re pretty much a part of every required reading list, so, of course, you would think you’ve heard it all about this literary and historical figure, right? Think again.


According to Lit Hub, Twain was maybe, possibly a drug lord.


William Herndon

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In a biography about the quirky writer, author Albert Bigelow Paine explains Twain’s reluctance to go to school and his strong desire to read. The one book that struck his fancy and set a fire within him was William Herndon’s Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon: 1851-1852. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Because it was! Herndon’s quests lead him to experience the wildlife surrounding him and the indigenous Incan people, all of which Twain had never seen before.



Image Via Wikimedia Commons


Herndon specifically described a certain type of plant. Twain read about the natives chewing on a coca plant while they worked in the mines all day long. This mysterious plant allowed them to go long periods of time without eating while maintaining enough energy to get their work done.


Mark Twain

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Naturally, Twain thought it was something “miraculous” and wanted to be the one to make a profit from it. In time he set forth to find a way to make it to the Amazon to bring the coca plant back. He dreamt up ways to harness the trade routes that brought the coca plant to America with hopes to use that vital secret for America’s labor force. It was due to difficulties with possible partners, monetary involvement, and lawful discouragement that forced Twain to give up.


Did he know what he was doing? Probably not. Did he truly understand how harmful and addictive the coca plant could be? Definitely not. According to Paine, Twain never fully thought about the challenge that came with his desire.


Mark Twain could very well have been the Tony Montana of the 19th century.


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