Mickey Finns

prohibitionbarA few weeks ago, I wrote about my discovery of Veronal, an over-the-counter sleeping medicine popular in the Twenties. In #3 of my Roaring Twenties mystery series, which I am writing now, I use a very large dose of Veronal (many packets) to knock out some bad guys. I wanted one of the characters to call it a Mickey Finn, so I had to make sure I knew exactly what a Mickey Finn was and whether the term was used in the Twenties. What I found was very interesting, so I thought I’d share.

il_570xN.454371526_lqhcA Mickey Finn, or a “Mickey” for short, is a drink laced with knock-out drug, usually chloral hydrate, which is what was in Veronal. The practice may have gotten its name from a Chicago bartender who would knock out his customers and rob them. That could be legend; what isn’t legend is the 1918 arrest of many Chicago waiters for taking revenge on poor-tipping customers by putting a poison in their food or beverage. (Remember that the next time you’re at a restaurant!) The Oxford English Dictionary (the gold standard of word origins) dates the first written use of the term to 1915. That was good enough for me–I have one of the deputies say, “Damn. Nine packets of Veronal? That’s a helluva Mickey Finn.” 

Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 8:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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