Top 10 Intriguing Facts About The Golden Era Of Brothels In America

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6. Bribery Going Both Ways

Although prostitution and, in turn, brothels were illegal for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, police forces often turned a blind eye to such establishments—providing their eye had something else to focus on, usually a form of financial compensation.

In some cases, women who operated independent of brothels were not immune from paying the “fee” to be able to ply their trade. Once it was known that a woman was working as a prostitute, a landlord was sure to extort as much as possible in rent from his client. That is, if he was “kind enough” to rent to a single woman (and many would not).[5]

It worked both ways, however. Especially if the police force was becoming too much of a problem, brothel owners or prostitutes would often threaten public exposure for some of their more well-known clients within the forces or those who might have influence over them.


5. Origins Of The Terms ‘Red-Light District’ And ‘Hookers’

Although the origins are disputed by many, terms such as “red-light district” and “hooker” in reference to prostitution are argued by some to have come from the blurry lines of the sex trade in 19th-century America.

As more families moved to the initially male-dominated environment of the frontier towns, brothels and prostitution were generally forced to locate in restricted areas. It is claimed by some that the term “red-light district” comes from the railroad workers who left their “red lights” outside brothels when visiting them.[6]

The term “hooker” is said by some to have originated from the activities of General Joseph Hooker, who enjoyed the company of prostitutes. Others contend that the term was connected to a red-light district in Washington that was in Joseph Hooker’s territory and became known as Hooker’s Division. Hence, the term “hookers” was given to the kind of ladies with whom Joseph Hooker would associate.

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