Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Tracing Our Saloon Men, Boodlers, and Prostitutes

Not My Ancestors!

The San Francisco Examiner
09 Feb 1922, Thu · Page 14

Where were your ancestors when the local saloons and brothels were buzzing?
Saloons and houses of prostitution, brothels, and boodlers were not restricted to big cities. Small town midwest was notorious for them. There was a reason Carrie Nation chose Kiowa, Kansas as her first smash and hatchet town. 

Small Town Shame

The best about small towns, are small town newspapers. They believed in public shaming. And, what a great opportunity to find your ancestor listed as a saloon man, great grandma a prostitute, or your local politician ancestor taking bribes ("boodler")?

My ancestors lived in Medicine Lodge, Kiowa, and frequented area towns notorious for this kind of activity. Matter of fact, some moved from Kansas to Tonopah, Nevada, to open their own saloons. Keep in mind saloons and brothel clients were still segregated, but they were prevalent across America regardless of race. Many were associated with Masonic Lodges or other social clubs.

Really, how many in Arkansas City, KS were charged for "running a joint," "prostitution," and gambling in 1887. 
Note:  Arkansas City is pronounced "are -kansas" not like the state.

4 Places to Begin Your Search
By the 1880's saloons were populating America at record rates. But, don't worry, your ancestor may have frequented the first recognized saloon: Brown's Hole in Wyoming in 1822. And, to Carrie Nation's disgust, they have yet to go out of style: pubs, saloons, Dodge City!!!

1) Newspapers.
Kiowa Kansas vs Attica Kansas

Don't limit your research to the local newspapers. Be sure to peruse the newspapers in surrounding towns and counties. There were inherit town competitions, kind of like... hmmm... Kansas City, Mo. vs St. Louis today. Newspapers often jumped over problems in their own yard, in order to highlight the saloon and brothel disgraceful activities across the city or county border. Newspapers as far as Iowa and Lawrence, Kansas wrote about the notorious Kiowa saloons.

2) Know Your Keywords.  
"Brothel," and "ill-famed" along with prostitution" and "houses of prostitutions" keywords must be included in your searches. And lest not forget "blind-tiger." The keyword "blind tiger" was used unanimously as "bootleg" and "joints."  Women were charged for this crime often. They often made bootleg whiskey in their kitchens.

3) Local and state courts records.

Minneapolis Independent, 5 Apr 1879
Raids were across America. The midwest MINK states (Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska and Kansas) were noted for filling the courts with these charges. Men and women were guilting. This is a great time to remind you, that it wasn't just the men, who were participating. Remember women were also recruited as marshals to sniff out "blind tigers."

4) Follow the tracksWhich tracks you ask?
1) Railroad tracks: where saloons and brothels were plentiful; 
Washington Register, Washington, KS, 11 Mar 1887

2) Carrie Nation and other women and religious movements. At some point. I guess. they learned that morality can not be enforced by laws. Quelled? Maybe. But, not controlled.
Be sure to read: Saloons & Carrie Nation.

Kathleen Brandt
Be Historically Correct
Accurate Accessible Answers

No comments:

Post a Comment