January 11, 1921: Newspapers report arrest of “Dope King of Superior”

On this day in Duluth in 1921, the Duluth News Tribune reported the arrest of  Frank Insco, who the paper called the “Dope King of Superior.” The arrest was the result of a raid on Insco’s property at 1219 Fourth Street in Superior, described as an “opium den.” Insco, the report said, belonged to a ring of smugglers operating throughout the region who trafficked in both opium and cocaine—and the wealthy women of Duluth and Superior were his main customers. The Duluth News Tribune reported that, “From neighbors it was last night learned that women dressed in costly furs and gowns which told of their high social position had been seen to frequent the place at late hours of the night. They often came in taxicabs, hired liveries and sometimes in their own cars…. The identity of the visitors could not be learned or was refused.” Evidence seized included opium pipes, syringes, hundred of packages of opium and thousands of dollars worth of cocaine. The raid also turned up thousands of dollars worth of “feminine jewelry”—likely payment from those wealthy women for the drugs they craved. And it wasn’t just women, as the reported added that “prominent men of Superior and Duluth…have been frequenters of the place.” Hard evidence of this was difficult to find, as every customer managed to sneak out before the police broke in. During its investigation Superior police noticed that Insco met a weekly train from Canada once a week and received a package from a “colored porter” each time. The porter, Frank Allen, was found carrying a large amount of cocaine the previous month. Read more about the history of opium dens in the Twin Ports here.

Poppies: the source of opium. (Image: Public Domain)

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