DENVERS DISORDERLY WOMEN:
PROSTITUTION AND THE SEX TRADE, 1858 TO 1935
Cheryl Siebert Waite
B.A. University of Colorado at Denver, 2001
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Cheryl Siebert Waite
has been approved
Rebecca A. Hunt
g/j* 3 / 7>QQ (a
Waite, Cheryl Siebert (M.A., History)
Denvers Disorderly Women: Prostitution in Denver 1858-1935
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
From the founding of Denver in 1858 until 1935, the issue of prostitution
made frequent newspaper headlines. The sex trade became a major political issue,
causing disagreements among many of Denvers reformers and inspiring grand jury
investigations. Why has the worlds oldest profession been such a source of
controversy for this city? On one hand, commercialized sex was illegal and immoral.
On the other hand, prostitution was an accepted way of life and a way to provide a
living for many women who otherwise might not have survived economically. City
officials tolerated an unofficial segregated district because it enriched the city
treasury with the fines paid by prostitutes. This source of income for the city went
into building roads, schools and other municipal assets. Some of Denvers prostitutes
paid protection money as bribes to the police officers to prevent raids or further
arrests. Denver also used the women of the red light district as a source of
entertainment, to attract tourists and businessmen.
Much of Denvers shady side historiography has focused on prostitution prior
to 1913, when city officials, prodded by reformers, closed the district. This thesis
goes beyond the 1913 closure to explore Progressive efforts to reform the sex trade
until 1935. The study focuses on what life was like for these women, why city
finally decided to close the district and what happened to the women after 1913. This
thesis also shows that Denvers soiled doves came from working class women. They
were not the glamorous painted lady or the destitute whore, but ordinary women who
struggled to make ends meet.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
Thomas J. Noel
I dedicate this thesis to my family. To my husband, Steve, for his understanding; to
my daughters, Rochelle and Scarlett, for their patience while I pursued my dream;
and finally to my mother, Marguerite, who believed in me, God rest her soul.
I would like to thank Dr. Thomas J. Noel, Dr. Myra Rich and Dr. Rebecca
Hunt for their tireless efforts in helping me complete this thesis. I would especially
like to thank Dr. Noel and Dr. Hunt for the extra time and effort they put forth going
over each and every page to make sure I covered everything completely. Thank you
I would like to thank the Colorado State Archives staff, Lance Christensen,
Erin McDaniel, George Orlowski, Jim Chipman, Paul Levit and Elena Cline.
Without their help, this thesis would not have gone in the direction it did. Inevitably
one of them would understand what I was searching for and somehow find the
information. I almost felt as though I worked at the Archives too, since I spent so
much time there doing my research. I would like to thank the people at the Western
History and Genealogy Department of the Denver Public Library, especially Bruce
Hanson, who always went out of their way to help me locate information. I would
also like to thank the Denver Police Department, particularly Sergeant Mark Fleecs
and Sergeant Donald Lindley for allowing me to ride along with them during their
shift and explain what prostitution in Denver is like today. Finally, I would like to
thank Keith Schrum at the Colorado Historical Society for allowing me to look at the
Sam Howe Scrapbooks. You were all Godsends.
2. The Formation and Regulation of Denvers Early Red Light
3. Life in Denvers Red Light District............................16
4. Denvers Disorderly Women......................................63
5. Denvers Reform Movement, City Officials and the End of the
6. Deregulation and Denvers New Underworld......................150
3.1 Map of Denvers Red Light District.................................17
3.2 Market Street Population 1870-1910................................21
3.3 Immigration of Prostitutes 1870 -1910.............................28
3.4 Sporting Women 1870...............................................29
3.5 Arrests of Madams 1885........................................... 50
3.6 Portrait of Unknown Woman in Jail.................................53
4.1 1886 Arrests for Keeping a Lewd House Outside the Designated Red
Light District................................................... 78
4.2 Portrait of Denvers Working Girls................................82
4.3 Male Inmates Arrested 1904........................................88
6.1 Charles W. Scott 1915 Mugshot....................................154
6.2 Mabel Fisher 1915 Mugshot........................................155
6.3 Trixi Gauhan 1915 Mugshot........................................156
6.4 The Family Business, Ryan Women Portrait.......................172
6.5 Annie Ryan Mugshot............................................. 176
6.6 Vera Brownie Brinkerhoff Mugshot...............................186
6.7 Charles Manship Mugshot..........................................187
Raiders Find Schoolgirl, 15 in Asserted Love Market, shouted the
headline of the Rocky Mountain News on June 28, 1934. Authorities searched for the
East High School student for over a month before a friend finally divulged her
whereabouts.1 2 I am not eighteen years old, I am fifteen and I ran away from home.
My name is not Sandra Reynolds, it is Dorothy Shelton and I left home about a month
ago. The cops were looking for me and I was scared. This was the statement given
by Dorothy Marguerite Shelton to Earl Wettengel, Denver District Attorney
explaining why she was at a house of prostitution in Denver. Dorothy then
proceeded to tell about the madam of the house, She said she didnt want anybody
else to touch me while I was there and that she felt sorry for me... that she would take
care of me.3 Vera Brinkerhoff was the madam who promised to take care of
Dorothy and not let any harm come to her.
Authorities later found that Dorothy had had illicit relations with numerous
men while living at Veras house despite Veras promise to protect Dorothy and not
1 Wallace M. Reef, Raiders find schoolgirl, 15, In Asserted Love Market, Rocky Mountain News,
28, June, 1934,1.
2 Denver District Court Case # 32221. Testimony.
3 Denver District Court Case # 32221. Testimony.
let any harm come to her.4 Veras Love Market was at 1145 Marion Street in a
respectable residential neighborhood and not on Market Street in Denvers infamous
red-light district. Brinkerhoff s den of iniquity was in full swing twenty-one years
after the lights of the district were supposedly turned out in 1913. Many of the local
residents believed that closing the houses of ill repute in the red-light district would
rid the city of this evil business, but prostitution remained in Denver and continued to
be a major issue throughout the region. Dorothys story is only one of many tales
about Denvers prostitution that have been lost to history.
This study is not the first to cover the history of Denvers prostitution.
However, it is the first to take Denvers illicit past beyond 1913 when authorities
closed the red-light district. It will look at the people involved in the business of
commercialized sex for seventy-seven years and through public documents and court
records, will show that the traffic in prostitution did not end in Denver because the
red-light district closed. In fact, the district never really shut down. It only became
more widespread throughout the city. With the close of the district came an increase
in streetwalkers, women who sold themselves for sex on public streets. Progressively
more women found themselves on the streets after 1913 in the lowest form of
prostitution. This led to their involvement in other crimes in Denver such as
4 Denver District Court Case # 32221. Testimony.
vagrancy, larceny, and murder. The streetwalkers not only became the victims of
more violent crimes, but increasingly became the perpetrators of these crimes as well.
The reality of life as a prostitute and related criminal activity were not
included in the early works of prostitution. In 1965 when Caroline Bancroft penned
her Six Racy Madams of Colorado, many historians considered the topic of
prostitution to be taboo in terms of serious historical study. One of the first to write
about Denvers prostitution, Bancroft described two of Denvers infamous madams.
Jennie Rogers was flashingly beautiful and full of life while Mattie Silks was the
petite darling of every masculine writer dealing with Denvers red-light district.5
The early accounts of prostitution in Denver romanticized the stories about the
notorious lives of the painted ladies. These idealized personas only told part of the
story of Denvers illicit history. Bancroft and other writers overlooked the reality of
their daily life, dealing with city officials, trouble with their men, and the hardships of
Since the 1990s the history of Denvers prostitution has been taken more
seriously. In 1997 Clark Secrest published Hells Belles: Prostitution, Vice, and
Crime in Early Denver and more recently, Jan MacKell published her in-depth study
5 Caroline Bancroft, Six Racy Madams of Colorado (Boulder, CO: Johnson Printing Company, 1965),
on Colorados prostitution Brothels, Bordellos & Bad Girls.6 Secrest details the
significance of Denvers illicit history and the connection between the citys growth
and prostitution by using high profile newspaper accounts and criminal incidents
during the operation of the district up to 1913. Unlike other authors, Secrest gives
information regarding some of the lesser known women and men who worked in
Denvers red-light district through the perspective of Sam Howe, one of Denvers
first vice detectives. MacKell takes an overall look at prostitution in Colorado up
through the 1930s. She is the first to tell the story from the viewpoint of the prostitute
and not of the well-known legends.
Certainly any number of stories glorifying the madams of Denvers red-light
district from 1858 to 1913 can be found on the shelves of libraries and bookstores.
However, this study is not to provide more anecdotes of Denvers illicit history, but to
prove that prostitution was actually one part of the make-up of Denvers working
class. Most of the women who chose prostitution as a profession were not lucky
enough to find employment in a high-class brothel, and if even they did, they were
not guaranteed lifelong employment.7 A portion of these working women chose
6 Clark Secrest, Hells Belles: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime in Early Denver With a Biography of Sam
Howe, Frontier Lawman, (Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2002); Jan MacKell, Brothels,
Bordellos, & Bad Girls: Prostitution in Colorado 1860-1930, (Albuquerque, NM: University of New
Mexico Press, 2004).
7 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America 1900-1918 (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1982), 100.
prostitution as a living or for extra income because it was an option, due to the
increase in the commercialized sex trade and due to lower wages for women.
Without the men paying the lower wages or frequenting the commercial sex
establishments, prostitution would not have been such a flourishing business.
The methodology in the study of women and prostitution was slower to
progress than in other forms of social history. Timothy Gilfoyle, historian of early
American prostitution, articulated the need for change when he said that before 1980,
the prostitute was pornographic and few historians were interested in the history of
prostitution due to its controversial content. By the 1980s, historians began to focus
on the causes of prostitution rather than glorify the women who were part of the red-
light history and they finally recognized that several kinds of prostitutes existed, not
just the high-class brothel worker or the infamous madam.8 9 Historians began to
document women who practiced prostitution on the streets, in small one-room cribs,
in saloons, in hotels, even in restaurants. They found that the link between society
and prostitution was much more complex than previously believed.10 Instead of the
8 Timothy J. Gilfoyle, Prostitutes in History: From Parables of Pornography to Metaphors of
Modernity. The American Historical Review, (Washington, DC: American Historical Association,
9 Ruth Rosen & Sue Davidson, The Maime Papers, (Old Westbury, NY: The Feminist Press, 1977),
10 Anne M. Butler, Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery: Prostitutes in the American West 1865-90,
(Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1987), xviii-xix.
good time girl, historians found the majority of women who went into prostitution
did so because they needed extra money to pay the rent, buy food for their children,
or to support an out of work husband, not because they thought they were going to
make a fortune or were sexual deviants.11 Two leading historians of prostitution in
the American west, Ruth Rosen and Anne M. Butler, agree that one of the main
reasons women went into prostitution was economics.12 They dispel the previous
myth of the glamorous prostitute and focus on the underside of prostitution. They
began to detail the degraded of the life of a prostitute. Many women thought it was
their only choice in a patriarchal society.13 Class restrictions, poverty, and desertion
were a few of the other reasons women chose the profession of prostitution.
Other social historians like Alexy Simmons began to look at prostitution
within the realm of economic and political issues. Many young girls believed that
going into the working world would be an escape from farm life or a way to gain
11 Ruth Rosen & Sue Davidson, The Maime Papers, xxii, xxviii. Through the actual letters of Mamie
Pinzer we are able to understand the life of a prostitute and her perspective in the early 20th Century.
Even though Miss Pinzer was an east coast prostitute, her views are a good indication of what life was
like for a woman during this era trying to escape a life of shame and to become a part of an accepted
society; Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860, (Chicago, IL:
University of Chicago Press, 1896), 176.
12 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, xvii; Butler, Daughters of Joy, 16.
1j Joel Best, Controlling Vice, Regulating Brothel Prostitution in St. Paul, 1865-1883, (Columbus,
Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1998), viii.
independence.14 Instead of creating self-sufficient women, the industrialization of
America helped to create a segment of women who became more, rather than less,
dependent on men due to economic disadvantages in the workplace.
Many women began to recognize a way out of their economic distress and
found an avenue to use commercial sex to their advantage. Between the dichotomy
of the painted lady and the helpless victim whose life of poverty and denigration often
led to suicide, is the prostitute who took advantage of the sex market and created a
niche. In so doing, she created a booming business for herself and others in the city,
much like Paula Petriks study of the women in Helena, Montana whom she called
Capitalists with Rooms.15 Yes, Denver had prostitutes from both ends of the
spectrum, from the fancy ladies to the low-class whore, but the majority of the
prostitutes in Denver were somewhere in the middle and were just trying to get by.
For a few short years, at least until the close of the district, they created a world in
which they had control.
As the female entrepreneurs created a niche for themselves, they also created
a way for the town and its merchants to profit from their success. Richard F. Selcer
noted this in his book Hells Half Acre: The Life & Legend of a Red Light District
14 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 147; Alexy Simmons, Red Light Ladies; Settlement Patterns and
Material Culture on the Mining Frontier, (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University, 1989), 27.
15 Paula Petrik, Capitalists With Rooms Revisited: Prostitution in Helena, Montana 1865-1900, The
Women's West, (Institute of the American West, 1983), 21.
that the industrial growth of Fort Worths Business Boom was in direct relation to
prostitution. Harry Sinclair Drago also documented this in his book Notorious Ladies
of the Frontier showing that the city of Ellsworth, Kansas received three hundred
dollars per month from prostitution fines alone, which more than paid for municipal
expenses.16 Denver was also among the cities that charged larger fines to prostitutes.
When raids took place, the city made hundreds of dollars. In January 1880, Denver
made $600.00 from fines for arrests of women for Keeping a Lewd House.17 These
historians found that the role the working girl played in the citys daily life was
more significant to a towns growth than previously believed, by increasing city
revenues and profits for many of the towns merchants who charged higher prices for
merchandise to the towns women of ill repute.18
Social and womens historians who concentrated on the issues of prostitution
in relation to Victorian values also began to look at the relationships between the
16 Harry Sinclair Drago, Notorious Ladies of the Frontier, (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1969),
105; Richard F. Selcer, Hells Half Acre: The Life & Legend of a Red Light District, (Ft. Worth, TX:
Texas Christian University Press, 1991), 20-21.
17 District Court Inverse Index, Criminal Division 1879-1884, Volume 2, Colorado State Archives.
Court costs varied depending on the case, but the costs charged to many of the prostitutes ran from five
to fifteen dollars.
18Marion S.Goldman, Gold Diggers & Silver Miners: Prostitution and Social Life on the Comstock
Lode, (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 1981), 9; Paula Petrik, No Step Backward:
Women and Family on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier, Helena, Montana, 1865-1900, (Helena,
MT: Montana Historical Society Press, 1987), 57; Selcer, Hells Half Acre, 21.
reform movements and prostitution.19 As urban centers flourished and the western
frontier grew, wages for working women remained low, which, in turn increased the
population of prostitutes. As prostitution grew, so did the controversy over the
commercialized sex trade. Respectable women were appalled by the increase in
prostitution and the treatment of their sisters in the lower classes. Moralists crusading
against prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases took on the battle to rid
Americas cities and towns of vice districts.20 The issue of prostitution became a
struggle between the respectable ladies and working girls.
The formation of benevolent groups was by no means a new idea in America
and ladies societies had already formed in Denver by the 1860s. However, the
underlying shift of focus from helping the lower classes of deserving women to
unfortunate women began to change as prostitution grew. Mark Connelly, Barbara
Hobson, and David Pivar look at prostitution through the eyes of the reformers. In
their research they found that the reformers were often the cause of their own
downfall due to their persistent belief in their own superiority and in actuality did not
19 Lillian Schlissel & Vicki L. Ruiz, eds, Their Land, Their Lives, Western Women by Robert
Griswold, (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1988), 22; Gilfoyle, Prostitutes in
History, 119; Butler, Daughters of Joy, xviii.
20 David J. Pivar, Purity and Hygiene: Women, Prostitution, and the American Plan, 1900-1930,
(Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002), xii.
help the fallen women as they intended.21 22 Connelly argues that by the early 1900s
many reform groups were crumbling and losing their impact on society, only to give
one last push to close the red-light districts. Connelly believes that the districts were
on their way out anyway with or without the efforts of the reform movement. This
point is arguable. The reform movement closed down any visible symbols of
prostitution like the brothels, but it did not get rid of prostitution. It is conceivable
that the districts would have flourished for years longer if active moral and reform
groups had not pressured city officials to shut them down. In Denver, for example,
city officials opted to keep the district in operation through regulation, but not shut it
down completely until 1913.
Even though many people believed that completely shutting down the district
was not the answer, reform movements were the impetus for closing Denvers
brothels in 1913; much the same as those in other cities in the United States, whose
goal was to stamp out the social evil and rid the cities of the immoral women and men
who infested their streets. Some reformers did rescue a few of the women who
turned bad, but for the majority of the working girls, reform was not the answer,
nor was being placed into a position with lower pay and less freedom such as
21 Mark Connelly, The Response to Prostitution in the Progressive Era, (Chapel Hill, NC: The
University of North Carolina Press, 1980), 10; Barbara Meil Hobson, Uneasy Virtue: The Politics of
Prostitution and the American Reform Tradition, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press,
1987), 4; Pivar, Purity and Hygiene, xiii.
22 Will Clean Up City Promises Felix ONeill, Rocky Mountain News, May 29, 1912,3.
domestic service or factory work.23 Most of the women wanted jobs that paid a
livable wage so they could earn a decent living and not struggle from week to week or
be forced to sell themselves so they could eat. Many reformers did not see it this way
and only believed that these women were fallen and in need of saving. It was
inconceivable for many of the respectable ladies that a woman would willfully
choose prostitution. However, there were a few women who recognized this reform
problem. Among them was Emma Goldman who so aptly said in 1917, Whether our
reformers admit it or not, the economic and social inferiority of women is responsible
for prostitution.24 Many reformers believed through their efforts they could put an
end to the social evil, only to realize several years later that they had made matters
worse by focusing only on the women and forcing them to live as they deemed fit.
Changing the district made the life of a prostitute harder, more violent, and more
dangerous, but it did not rid Denver of prostitution.
This study is a social history of the women in Denver who chose the sex trade
as a means of survival. Primary sources such as criminal and court records,
newspaper articles, and record books from Denvers reform groups illuminate the
opposing viewpoints and agendas of the respectable ladies and the working
23 Rosen, The Maime Papers, xxxiv; Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 66-67; Butler, Daughters of Joy, 2.
24 Emma Goldman, The Traffic in Women, The Traffic in Women and Other Essays on Feminism,
(New York, NY: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1917. Reprint, New York: NY Times Change
Reprint 1970), 17.
women. Prostitution in Denver has not been looked at through the eyes of the women
who Worked in the brothels, the cribs, and in the streets.
This study uses some primary sources not already uncovered by the other
authors who wrote about prostitution in Denver. Lance Christensen, at the State
Archives, suggested looking at the inverse criminal records for the City of Denver
beginning with 1870. This turned out to be a goldmine. Record after record of
misdemeanors listed the name, the charge, and sometimes the outcome of the
sentence, for Denvers prostitutes, their associates and in some cases, where they
lived and worked. A few of the individual court records contained the testimony
from the defendant, which proved to be a valuable resource into the lives of the
women, permitting a better understanding of the individuals who made up Denvers
red-light district before and after its closure.
Chapter One: (Introduction) Why is this topic so important in the history of
Denver? Little is known about the working girls who made up a portion of the city
that many would rather forget. Even though prostitution has been the focus of many
authors and historians, this study takes a more in-depth look at who the women were
and their daily lives in Denver from 1858 to 1935. It will bring them out from
historical obscurity and into their place in Denvers history.
25 Butler, Daughters of Joy, xvi.
Chapter Two: Why did prostitution become such a flourishing business in
Denver? This chapter will show why so many women chose to come to the frontier
west to join the ranks of their illicit sisters. It will also explain the formation of the
district. It will include information about Denvers early years and the laws
established to control prostitution.
Chapter Three: What was life like in the tenderloin district? Who lived and
worked among the prostitutes? This chapter will describe the respectable working
class citizens who lived among the working girls and portray what their lives were
probably like. This chapter will also look at the police raids, white slavery, pimps
and men who worked the district, the daily violence of the area and the changes
between 1858 and 1913.
Chapter Four: This will ask who were the disorderly women of Denver? It
was not only the madams, it was also crib workers, part-time prostitutes and women
who did not see themselves as harlots, but as someone trying to earn a few extra
dollars to survive. This chapter will cover many of the missing women from history
and try to get a more accurate picture of individual women involved in Denvers
Chapter Five: How did the reform movement in Denver eventually help close
the district? How did ideas of respectable ladies conflict with the beliefs of the
working girls? Chapter Five will look at the relationship between the reform ladies
and the fallen women. It will describe the close of the district and the effect it had on
Chapter Six: How did commercialized sex change in Denver after the closing
of the cribs and brothels? This chapter will focus on prostitution in Denver between
1914 and 1935 and what happened to Denvers working girls. Even though many
citizens believed prostitution was no longer as prevalent as before, it was actually
spreading into other areas of the city. By closing the district, other doors opened to
new forms of the sex trade massage parlors, call girls, and an increase in
streetwalkers were now the norm. It also opened the doors for more pimps and
violence to shape the lives of the prostitutes.
Chapter Seven: (Epilogue) This chapter will try and answer why we should
care about Denvers prostitution history. Prostitution was here when the city was
formed and is still a subject seen on the front page of the newspapers today. It has
played a vital part in the history of Denver. Denvers prostitution was not established
solely to accommodate a mans needs, but was founded as a way for women to make
money and became a means to boost the citys economy. Prostitution, unlike other
businesses, did not let go of its employees easily. Women often found themselves
living in the dark world of illicit sex, drugs, alcohol and violence. Many women
entered the business freely, only to find that once entwined in this life it was almost
impossible to break free.
THE FORMATION AND REGULATION OF
DENVERS EARLY RED LIGHT DISTRICT
Oh the lust for mountain gold dust,
Brought us lusty mountain men;
Who, through lust for mountin women
Quickly lost their gold again.1
Denver was like many other frontier towns that had an established red-light
district. However, Denver was unique because it was in an area many believed to be
in the middle of nowhere and in a location no one would want to live, let alone come
to for pleasure. In the vast region that stretches west along the Missouri River to the
Great Basin, to the frozen unclaimed lands of the north, down to the arid wastelands
of the south lies a land that many people called the Great American Desert. Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle described this region of desolation as a place in which no sane
man would choose to live.2 Lieutenant Zebulon Pike reported the same in 1807 when
he explored the territory that would soon become Colorado. He declared the place a
genuine no mans land and people should remain east where they belonged as he
expressed in his journal, January 28,1807.3
1 Max Evans, Madam Millie: Bordellos from Silver City to Ketchikan (Albuquerque, NM: University
of New Mexico Press, 2002), x.
2 William Almond, ed., Denver Police Department Pictorial Review and History, 1859-1985,
(Research & Development Bureau, Denver Police Department, Publisher Unknown, 1985), 19.
Our citizens being so prone to rambling, and extending themselves on the frontiers,
will, through necessity, be constrained to limit their extent on the west to the borders
of the Missouri and Mississippi, while they leave the prairies, incapable of
cultivation, to the wandering and uncivilized Aborigines of the country.3 4
In spite of this belief, Denvers population flourished including the tenderloin district,
which eventually became one of the best-known districts in the west primarily due
to the women.
So what lured so many people, including prostitutes, to this desolate and
barren region? The same reason people went to California in 1848 Gold Fever! In
1858, William Green Russell discovered placer gold in Little Dry Creek, the future
sight of Englewood.5 This small find was enough to start the migration of men and
women to the New El Dorado.6
Many people seeking fast wealth and fortune began their trek to the area that
would soon be known as Denver City. The prospectors quickly determined there was
little gold to be discovered in the Platte River or in the Cherry Creek.7 Some of the
3 Marshall Sprague, Colorados First 100 Years, This is Colorado: Special Centennial Magazine
Section of the Denver Post Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire, June 21,1959,18.
4Zebulon Montgomery Pike, Exploratory Travels through the Western Territories of North America
Comprising a Voyage from St. Louis, on the Mississippi, to the Source of that River, and a Journey
Through the Interior of Louisiana and the North-Eastern Provinces of New Spain, (London:
Paternoster-Row, 1811 & Denver: W.H. Lawrence & Co., 1889) 231.
5 Sprague, Colorados First 100 Years, 18.
6 Stephen J. Leonard & Thomas J. Noel, Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis, (Niwot, CO: University
Press of Colorado, 1990), 4; Almond, Denver Police Department Pictorial Review, 19.
miners moved on to look for gold up in the Rocky Mountains especially after its
discovery in 1859 near Idaho Springs.7 8 But many men believed it was easier to stay
and extract gold from the miners than to look for it in the mountains. They sought
their wealth through other ventures such as supplying goods and services to incoming
migrants.9 Along with the prostitutes came bartenders, gamblers, merchants,
craftsman, lawyers, bankers and others expecting to profit from the up-and-coming
town.10 The land that the Cheyenne and Arapaho once roamed became part of
Kansas Territory, known as the Territory of Jefferson, before becoming Colorado
Territory in 1861.11 The two mining camps of Denver City and Auraria City turned
into one supply town.
The vast majority of newcomers to Denver were men and the merchants who
set up shop were happy to meet their needs. By 1859, families were settling in the
area, however, many of them found Denver to be a wide-open town that catered
7 Almond, Denver Police Department Pictorial Review, 19. The first mining camp, St Charles City,
was established east of the Cherry Creek in September 1858, the second, Auraria, was established west
of the Cherry Creek in November 1858. The third, Highland, was then established at the confluence of
the Platte River and Cherry Creek in the autumn of 1859.
8 Sprague, Colorados First 100 Years, 18.
9 Rebecca A. Hunt, Aurora, Colorado Historical Context Study, 5.
10 Rebecca A. Hunt, Aurora, Colorado Historical Context Study, 3; Sprague, Colorados First 100
11 Sprague, Colorados First 100 Years, 19.
mainly to its male workers. Fights, rows, brawls, shooting and stabbing affrays
are the order of the day, reported the Rocky Mountain News on November 3, 1859.12 13
The frequency of bloody collisions on the other side of the Creek, [Auraria] where
most of the gambling saloons are located, has become fearful.14 On December 3,
1859, the Jefferson Territorial Legislature (the legal predecessor of Colorado
Territory) convened and decided to combine the two communities into one and call it
Denver.15 By combining these communities into one town, the legislature believed
that by establishing ordinances it would gain control of the fearful situation and put
an end to the violence.
While the legislature was trying to make Denver a decent town for people to
live, it was still a wild and unruly place to be. By 1860, the ratio of men to women
was about six to one, a fact that provided a prime opportunity for women who were
hoping to profit from the fortune of others.16 Saloons, gambling dens, and brothels
were some of the first businesses to open in Denver because single miners looking for
gold did not concern themselves with the towns future needs, such as schools or
12 Leonard & Noel, Mining Camp to Metropolis, 6; Butler, Daughters of Joy, 16.
lj Denver City Sept. 22,1859, Rocky Mountain News, November 3, 1859,1.
14 Denver City, Rocky Mountain News, 1.
15 Almond, Denver Police Department Pictorial Review, 19.
16 Leonard & Noel, Mining Camps to Metropolis, 91.
churches.17 18 Most prospectors were transient and not planning to settle for the long
term to establish a city. As a matter of fact, many of the men who came to Denver
looking to strike it rich left their women at home and found rented companionship
easily obtainable in the new frontier town.19
Denvers first brothels were originally established along McGaa Street, which
was the original name of the street that runs one block northwest and parallel to
Larimer Street, Denvers main street and business district during the late twentieth
century.20 The street was named after William McGaa, the son of an English
nobleman and one of the founders of the Denver City Town Company.21 22 By 1866
McGaa had lost his favorable standing with the Company, which soon decided to
rename the street Holladay after Ben Holladay. Holladay, the proprietor of the
17 Thomas J. Noel, The City and the Saloon: Denver 1858-1916, (Lincoln, NB: The University of
Nebraska Press, 1982), 5 &12. There were 35 saloons in a six block area in Denver according to map
18 Schlissel, Their Land, Their Lives, 22.
19 Max Miller, Holladay Street, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1962), 26; Goldman, Gold Diggers, 16.
Goldman states that many lower and working class men were more likely to frequent the brothels
because marrying and bringing a wife to the frontier took more money than most of them possessed;
Secrest, Hells Belles, 90-91.
Jerome Smiley, History ofDenver With Outlines of the Earlier History of the Rocky Mountain
Country, (Denver, CO: Old Americana Publishing Co., 1901), 221; Thomas J. Noel, Denvers Larimer
Street: Main Street, Skid Row, and Urban Renaissance, (Denver, CO: Historic Denver, Inc., 1981), 7.
21 Leonard & Noel, Mining Camp to Metropolis, 8; Secrest, Hells Belles, 77.
22 Smiley, History of Denver, 222.
Holladay Express Company helped bring the stagecoach to Denver prior to the
railroads arrival in 1870.23 The only thing that changed was the street name as
saloons, gambling houses and brothels set up shop along Holladay Street. The street
eventually became known as one of the wickedest streets in the west by purveyors
Between 1859 and 1870, the number of brothels along Holladay Street grew.
In many western towns prostitution was not welcome, but was nevertheless accepted
by many of the citizens.25 26 27 Gambling, drunkenness and prostitution were
commonplace in Denver; they were not only tolerated, but became a basic part of the
_new community. Every fifth house appears to be a bar, a whiskey-shop, a lager-
beer saloon; every tenth house appears to be either a brothel or a gaming house, very
often both in one, said a British visitor to Denver. Law and order were nearly
unheard of during Denvers infancy. Even Horace Greeley took the time to write
about the conditions of the young upstart town in 1859 when he wrote, I apprehend
that there have been more brawls, more fights, more pistol shots in this log city...
23 Secrest, Hells Belles, 79; Smiley, History of Denver, 222.
24 Max Miller, Holladay Street, 6.
25 Butler, Daughters of Joy, x.
26 Almond, Denver Police Department Pictorial Review, 17; Schlissel, Their Land, Their Lives, 22.
27 Quoted in Noel, City and the Saloon, 12; Schlissel, Their Land, Their Lives, 22; Evans, Madam
than in any community of no greater numbers on earth. The citizens of Denver
made no formal attempt at law enforcement other than a vigilance committee until
December 19, 1859 when the first election for marshal was held and the voters
elected William E. Bill Sisty as their new town marshal.28 29 He resigned five months
later.30 Was his early resignation due to fear for his life, a yearning to return to the
gold mines or public apathy?31
Prior to Sisty* s election, a correspondent from the Leavenworth Times wrote
an article that was reprinted in the Rocky Mountain News, suggesting that if the
citizens were desirious [sic] of saving the good reputation of their town, let them be
aroused from the present indifference and sweep the Augean stables without delay.32
Several of Denvers male citizens who made up the General Assembly of Jefferson
Territory felt it was time to establish laws against the prostitutes and those who tried
to make a profit off the lives of these women. In December 1859 and January 1860
the First General Assembly of Jefferson Territory met in Denver to institute laws for
the newly founded town. Among the laws established, officials felt it necessary to
28 Almond, Denver Police Department Pictorial Review, 20.
29 Noel, The City and the Saloon, 4.
30 Almond, Denver Police Department Pictorial Review, 20.
31 Almond, Denver Police Department Pictorial Review, 20.
32 Denver City, Rocky Mountain News, 1. n.d.
institute ordinances against anyone abducting a female for prostitution. Enticement
of young women into prostitution, otherwise known as white slavery, was not as
prevalent or newsworthy at this time as it would be during the early 1900s. Many
women who went into prostitution did so of their own free will.33 Why these
specific laws were put into place at this time seems unclear, other than that Jefferson
Territory based their provisions on the laws established in eastern Kansas and adopted
under the Constitution of the United States.34
Section 5: That to restrain, suppress and prohibit tippling shops, billiard
tables, ten pin alleys, ball alleys, houses of prostitution, and all disorderly
houses and practice gaming and gambling houses and all kinds of public
Section 13: If any person take or entice away any unmarried female under
the age of fifteen years from her father, mother, guardian, or other person
having the legal charge of her person, without their consent, for the purpose
of prostitution, he shall, upon conviction, be punished by imprisonment in
the penitentiary for not more than three years, or by fine of not more than on
thousand dollars, and imprisoned in the county jail not more than one year.36
Section 96: If any person inveigle or entice any female before reputed
virtuous to a house of ill fame, or knowingly conceal or aid, or abet in
concealing such female so deluded or enticed for the purpose of prostitution
or lewdness, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.37
Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 137.
34 Rocky Mountain News, October 20,1859, frontpage.
35 Rocky Mountain News, December 14, 1859, front page.
j6 Provisional Laws and Joint Resolutions Passed at the First and Called Sessions of the General
Assembly of Jefferson Territory held at Denver City, J.T. November and December, 1859, and January,
1860. (Published by Authority. Omaha, N.T. Robertson & Clark, Printers, 1860), 5.
j7 Provisional Laws and Joint Resolutions of Jefferson Territory, 19.
By 1861, the General Laws of Colorado established a provision on Open
Lewdness. Though no records for 1861 are available to determine how effective this
law was after its introduction or why it was instituted.
Section 111: If any person shall be guilty of open lewdness, or other
notorious act of open indecency tending to debauch the public morals, or
shall maintain or keep a bawdy house or place for the practice of fornication,
or shall keep a common ill-governed and disorderly house to the
encourage[ment] of idleness, gaming, drinking, fornication or other
misbehavior, every such person shall on conviction, be fined not exceeding
two hundred dollars, or imprisoned not exceeding six months.38
On July 18,1862 the Rocky Mountain News published an ordinance created
by Denver City Council stating that anyone guilty of keeping or maintaining or
having anything at all to do with a house of ill-fame would be fined not less than ten
dollars and not more than one hundred dollars for each offence.39 A few days later,
on July 24th an editorial appeared in the Rocky Mountain News about the effect of the
The publication of a late ordinance in reference to houses of bad repute in
our midst, has had a magical effect upon the Cyprians. They are leaving for
the Mountains by twos and singly, and the places that have heretofore known
them will soon know them no more forever.40
38 General Laws of Colorado, 1861, Section III, 313 (Colorado State Archives).
39 An Ordinance Concerning houses of Ill-fame, Rocky Mountain News, July 18, 1862,3.
40 The Effect, Rocky Mountain News, July 24,1862,2.
The only record available for 1862 is from the month of July, the same month
the ordinance was published, when there were only two arrests for women Keeping a
Bawdy House, Sarah Umpstead and Addie Acher.41 Sarah pled guilty and the court
only fined her one dollar. No dates were given in the records so it is unclear if the
police arrested Sarah before or after the ordinance was issued and why they only
charged her one dollar. There is no information on Addies plea or the verdict. Of
the various prostitutes in the area, why these two were the only women arrested is
anyones guess. Possibly the ordinance did not have the magical effect on them
and they chose to remain in Denver. In all likelihood Sarah and Addie were released
shortly after their initial arrest to continue their profession. They may have stayed in
Denver or moved on, because like the miners, prostitutes were often transient and
went where they could make the most profit and practice their profession without
In the entire year of 1863 only three records were found of women arrested in
Arapahoe County (which included Denver until 1902) for debauching public morals.
On March 3, 1863 police arrested Fannie Wells and Emma Mann for Keeping a
Bawdy House. The next day police arrested Big Jennie on the same charge. No
other information is given regarding pleas, verdicts or fines in the court records.
41 Denver District Court Index to Criminal Cases, July 1862. More than likely Addies last name
was Archer, but misspelled in the record book as was often done.
Even though ordinances outlawed prostitution, these records prove that prostitution
existed in Denver by 1861. The practice of collecting large fines from prostitution had
not yet been instituted. However, what is not clear is whether these laws were created
to pacify the respectable people of the community or if they were truly established to
control the women of ill fame.
With the arrival of more and more respectable women and families in Denver
the toleration of prostitution soon diminished.42 Drunkenness, gambling, and women
exposing their wares on the street was more than the respectable citizens could bear.
It became apparent to the towns leaders that they needed stricter laws. By 1866, the
ordinances in relation to lewdness and indecency, including a statement on gender
dress code, became more specific. It was inappropriate for a woman to appear scantly
dressed or even in a pair of trousers during this era. If she did, she would probably be
labeled as a prostitute. A separate provision to bawdy houses was also established.
Chapter 10, Section 3: If any person shall appear in any public place within'
this city in a state of nudity, or in a dress not belonging to his or her sex, or in
an indecent or lewd dress, or shall make any indecent exposure of his or her
person, or be guilty of any lewd or indecent act or behavior, or shall exhibit,
sell or offer to sell any indecent or lewd book, picture or other thing, or shall
exhibit or perform any indecent, immoral or lewd play or other
representation, every such person, or conviction, shall be fined a sum not less
than ten dollars, nor more than one hundred dollars.43
42 Schlissel, Their Land, Their Lives, 25.
4j B.B. Stiles, City Clerk, The Charter and Ordinances of the City of Denver: Adopted Since the
Incorporation of the City and its Organization, Nov., 1861 to the First Day ofApril, A.D. 1866 Revised
Chapter 10, Section 10: No bawdy house, house of ill fame, house of
assignation, or place for the practice of fornication, or common ill governed
or disorderly house, shall be kept or maintained within the limits of the City
of Denver; and every person who shall keep any such house or shall be an
inmate, or in anyway connected with any such house, or contribute to its
support, and every person, who shall permit any tenement, building or
premises, in his or her possession, or under his or her control, to be used for
any such purpose, and every person who shall permit any building which
shall be used or occupied for any such purpose, to stand upon any lot or
parcel of ground within said city, owned, held, possessed, or controlled,
either as the agent of the owner or otherwise, by him or her, shall be deemed
guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall, on conviction before the police justice,
for forfeit and pay to the City of Denver, a sum not less than ten dollars nor
more than one hundred dollars for each offence.44
Note that in Section 10 the ordinance refers to anyone having anything to do
with prostitution within the city limits of Denver, would be found guilty of a
misdemeanor and fined ten to one hundred dollars. Yet, the red light district had been
established well within the city limits of Denver for at least five years. In 1866,
two other significant changes to the ordinance were made. The first change was the
inclusion of assignation houses. An assignation house was not always a house of
prostitution, but a place, such as a hotel, where men and women could meet for illicit
fornication.45 The second change was that anyone who contributed to these
and Amended, (Denver, CO: Byers & Daily News Office and Printers, 1866), 88 (Chapter on
44 Stiles, The Charter and Ordinances of the City of Denver, 89.
45 F. J. Ebert, City Surveyor, Map of Denver, Colorado, (Denver, 1865); Phil Goodstein, Denver
Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic, (Denver, CO: New Social Publications, 1995), 115-118.
The red-light district was clearly in the city limits by 1865 according to the Congressional Grant map.
McGaa St. ran from E St. to M SL, which is today 14th St. to 215t St.; Josie Washburn, The Underworld
establishments of prostitution or illicit fornication would be found guilty of a
misdemeanor, including owners and landlords of buildings used for such purposes.
However, it would take another twenty years for any of these owners or landlords to
actually be prosecuted.
During the 1870s no significant changes were made to the ordinances relating
to prostitution. Interestingly enough though, Denver authorities finally decided
sometime after 1870 that if prostitution could not be eliminated it should at least be
confined. Never fully legalizing prostitution, authorities in Denver made Holladay
Street from 18th Street to 22nd Street the unofficial section set aside to control
Denvers prostitution.46 Regulating prostitution gave authorities greater power to
restrict where the trade could occur, as well as the hours of business. It also helped
fund the city by increasing fines levied on offenders.47 48
Another reason authorities decided to unofficially set aside the district during
the 1870s was probably the seven hundred percent population increase and the arrival
of the railroad. Once again Denvers male population soared in the form of railroad
workers, ranchers, farmhands, and miners. These men who were far from home,
Sewer: A prostitute reflects on life in the trade, 1871-1909, (1907; Reprint Lincoln, NB: University of
Nebraska, 1997), 153.
46 Washburn, The Underworld Sewer, 281.
47 Hobson, Uneasy Virtue, 28.
48 Leonard & Noel, Mining Camp to Metropolis, 41.
lonely and looking for a way to enjoy themselves after long working hours, sought
comfort, companionship, understanding, and sex from Denvers prostitutes.49
Conveniently located only a few blocks from the railway depots, the men found what
they were looking for on Holladay Street. Many of these men gravitated to the red-
light district for entertainment, enticed with a variety of saloons, gambling dens,
brothels or cribs. According to the 1870 census there were approximately forty-one
known white prostitutes working within the district.50 Holladay Street was becoming
a well-known red-light district throughout the west and got quite a reputation a
reputation that the Holladay family did not approve of.51 By 1877, the family of Ben
Holladay wanted no further association with the district and petitioned the city to
change the name thus Holladay Street became Market Street, as it remains today.52
The 1870 census helps the historian to determine who the prostitutes were in
Denver, because according to the Denver District Court records police did not arrest
or charge women with prostitution between the years of 1863 and 1880. The fines for
49 Cathy Luchetti in collaboration with Carol Olwell, Women of the West, (St. George, UT: Antelope
Island Press, 1982), 33.
30 1870 U.S. Census. Using the census is not always the most accurate way to locate prostitutes since
they are notorious for changing their name. However, many of the madams kept their same working
name. This is probably due to the fact that they did not want to loose the association between their
name and their establishment. Also, all prostitutes in Denver were not white, but according to the area
tallied in the 1870 census they were all listed as white, except for the servants, which were either listed
as black or mulatto and can not be assumed to be prostitutes.
51 Phil Goodstein, The Seamy Side of Denver, (Denver, CO: New Social Publications, 1993), 28.
52 Secrest, Hells Belles, xix.
prostitution remained the same from 1862 to 1866. By 1880, however, Denver
District Court Records were filled with names of women arrested for Keeping a
Lewd House. The enforcement of the laws against prostitutes and their associates by
Denver police and other city officials now charged the designated amounts of ten to
one hundred dollars per arrest, which went to the city of Denver. As more arrests and
raids took place and fines increased, the citys treasury grew. No longer would the
Queen City be considered a forsaken, barren wasteland because the money collected
from the women of ill repute would eventually help build better roads and other
municipal improvements in Denver.53
The unofficially designated red-light district on Market Street became known
as the row or the line and would remain that way until 1913 when the
respectable citizens of Denver forced the city to shut down the district.54 Denver
closed the doors to the brothels along Market Street, but did not eliminate prostitution
from the area. The streets that designated the former red-light district were still
considered the place to go for men who were looking for prostitution, a situation that
would remain through the 1920s.
53 Goldman, The Traffic in Women, 27; Dorothy Schneider & Carl J. Schneider, American Women in
the Progressive Era 1900-1920, (NY: Facts on File, 1993), 140.
54 Secrest, Hell's Belles, 91; Max Miller, Holladay Street, 6; Otto Wilson, Fifty Years Work with Girls
1883-1933: A Story of the Florence Crittenton Homes, (New York, NY: Amo Press, 1974), 19.
LIFE IN DENVERS RED LIGHT DISTRICT
Who does not remember those years when this street was practically a riot of naked women,
and when Denver conditions were only rivaled by the infamous cribs of Havana?1
George Creel, Denver Police Commissioner
I will attend to my business and whiskey will not interfere with me, nor fast-
women either. This is a great place for fast-women, and they are worse than whiskey.
They will meet you on the street and ask you to go home with them. F.C.
Hoogstraat wrote while visiting the stockyards in Denver.2 The area Hoogstraat
referred to was known as the row or the line in an area supposedly established
between 18th to 22nd streets, along Holladay (Market) Street.3 However, there were
other places in Denver that housed women of ill repute, not just on Holladay Street.
Prostitution could be found along Lawrence and Larimer Streets, up and down
Nineteenth, Twentieth and Twenty-First Streets and as far away from the established
red-light district as Arapahoe Street. There were also women, as well as men, who
1 White Slavers Aid Forces Seeking to Hurt Arnold and Police Board Creel, Rocky Mountain
News, August 22,1912,1.
2 F.C. Hoogstraat, 188? Letter, Western History/Genealogy /Genealogy Department, Denver Public
3 Phil Goodstein, The Seamy Side of Denver, 28. The term red-light district originated in the West.
Railroad brakemen were expected to carry their red lanterns at all times. When visiting a bordello or a
crib, the brakemen would hang their red-light outside of the establishment to let others know that it
was occupied or that it was a good place to stop; thus the red-light district got its name. Holladay
Street and Market Street will be used interchangeably throughout the text. Even though the street
1880 Map of Denver Red Light District
Courtesy Western History Department
Denver Public Library 4
4 1880 Water Supply Sources of Pollution, Denver, CO. Western History/Genealogy Department,
Denver Public Library, CG 4314.04.N856. The grid map shows the correlation of the streets in Denver
in association to the red light district.
plied their trade along Blake and Wazee streets.5 But the red-light district on
Holladay Street hosted Denvers concentration of prostitutes, especially the better
The People of the District
It is hard to imagine today what life was like for those who lived and worked
along Holladay Street during the operation of the red-light district. Prostitutes and
their clients were not the only people who could be found in the area. Intermingled
among the ladies of ill repute and the saloons along Denvers notorious street were
merchants, families, businesses, and respectable boarding houses.6 7 On the comer of
Holladay and 24th Street sat the Twenty-fourth Street Public School that was built in
1879. By 1906, twenty-seven years later, the issue of the school and the red-light
district became a hot button topic for city and school officials.
Families lived in close proximity to the tarnished females and needed such
amenities as schools and churches. At 614 Holladay, Lizzie Barton who listed herself
as the mistress of the establishment and a Sporting Woman lived less than a block
away from Peter Headding, a real estate agent at 622 Holladay, his wife Christina and
5 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Criminal Division 1879 -1884 Volume 2; Denver District Court
Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, 1884-1889 Volume 3, Colorado State Archives.
6 United States Census, 1880 Colorado.
7 1887 Sandbom Insurance Maps Western History/Genealogy /Genealogy Department, Denver Public
Library; Move Redlight District or Public School; Children Must Not Be Surrounded by Vice, Rocky
Mountain News, November 14, 1906,1.
their four children.8 E.A. Johnston, a single twenty-nine year old white landlady
ran a boarding house at 501 Holladay. In her establishment were ten white single
female boarders ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-four years old. Her so-called
boarding house was only a few doors down from Joseph Baines, a married thirty-
three year old stonecutter, his wife Carrie and their nine and a half year old daughter,
Gertie.9 At 411 Holladay, twenty-eight year old Ella Thompson ran an all black
brothel. She had four black female boarders aged eighteen to twenty-four years old
working for her.10 Across the street from Ellas, at 410 Holladay, was an all white
hotel ran by thirty-seven year old F. Slattery with his wife Mary. The Slatterys had
four children ages three to nine years old. They also had three white servants. On the
other side of Ellas boarding house was a saloon at 407 Holladay.11 The thirty-eight
year old proprietor, William Ruble, ran the saloon that sat at 407 Holladay. He was
married to Minnie and had one son, three years old.12 These are only a few
examples out of many that could be found by looking at the U.S. Census from 1870 to
1910 (except the 1890 census which was lost in a fire) in Colorado to find out that
8 1880 U.S. Census; 1887 Sandborn Insurance Maps.
9 1880 U.S. Census; 1887 Sandborn Insurance Maps.
10 1880 U.S. Census.
11 1880 U.S. Census.
12 1880 U.S. Census.
the district housed more than drinking, prostitution and gambling.13 People were also
trying to make their livelihood and raise a family on Holladay Street. Federal census
records for Denver establish who made up the district, give a sense of place and
determine how the district changed over time to 1913.
According to the 1870 census, there were approximately three hundred and
seventy-eight men, one hundred and eighty-five women, and three hundred and sixty-
nine children living between the 400 to the 800 block of Holladay Street.14 Of the
three hundred and sixty-nine children living in the area, the majority of young boys
and girls were under the age of five and ten, respectively. By the 1910 census there
.were seventeen men, two hundred and fifty-two women and two children listed in the
area.15 There were only two boys and no girls under the age of ten. In 1870 there
were one hundred sixty-seven families living along Holladay Street. By 1900 most of
the families in the area were gone.16 In the beginning, Holladay Street looked more
like a diverse working class neighborhood than a roaring red-light district, but by
1910 it could definitely be called a notorious vice district.
13 Using the census records can not be considered an exact science to the number of people in the area,
but is a good indicator of the types of people that lived in the area over time.
14 United States Census1870, Colorado. The numbers were 1600 to the 2900 block when they changed.
15 United States Census 1910, Colorado.
16 United States Census 1870 and 1910, Colorado.
Market Street Population 1870-1910
1870 1880 1885 1900 1910
Between 1870 and 1880 male boarding houses increased along Holladay
Street Beginning with the 1880 census, families in the area started declining by
fourteen percent and children by thirty-one percent. The decrease was likely due to
families moving to better neighborhoods. The more families that left widened the gap
for less reputable people to move in to the houses.
Even though the 1880 census indicates that families were moving away from
the area in Denver, it did not stop the city from building a new school in the area. In
1879, Denver built the Twenty-fourth Street School a few blocks down from the
growing tenderloin district. In 1900 the school added a new addition. By 1906 the
parents, clergy and city officials were clamoring to move the school or move the red-
light district by placing the fallen women and their associates to some other section 17 18
171870, 1880,1900,1910 U.S. Census; 1855 Colorado Census.
18 Kenton Forrest, Gene C. McKeever, Raymond J. McAllister, History of the Public Schools of
Denver: A Brief History (1859-1889) and Complete Building Survey of Denver Public Schools,
(Denver, CO: Tramway Press, 1989), Western History/Genealogy /Genealogy Department, Denver
outside the city.19 The principle of the school, A.J. Fynn, had been fighting for years
to do something about the children who walked through the district to get to school.20
Others said that the women were not up when the children were going to school.
However, some of the children who authorities questioned told a different tale. The
children said that as they were going to and from school they saw women on the
street who were either in their thin kimonos or who were partially nude. Some of the
children even said they ran errands for one particular woman who often paid for their
Parson Thomas Uzzell and Judge Ben Lindsey called a meeting with the
Denver School Board and local citizens to decide what to do about the red-light
district and the Twenty-fourth Street School. Opinions split many people wanted
the district closed for good; others said it would be easier to move the fallen women
to some other location. A tract of land by the Platte River was suggested by the
Methodist Ministers Alliance as a new place for the women of ill repute. Still
19 Move Redlight District or Public School; Children Must Not Be Surrounded by Vice, Rocky
Mountain News, November 14,1906,1.
20 Move Redlight District or Public School; Children Must Not Be Surrounded by Vice, Rocky
Mountain News, November 14, 1906,2.
21 Move Redlight District or Public School; Children Must Not Be Surrounded by Vice, Rocky
Mountain News, November 14, 1906,2.
22 Methodist Ministers Alliance Indorses Fight to Save Children of Poor from Contamination, Rocky
Mountain News, November 20, 1906.
others urged building another school in a better neighborhood.23 One of the
proponents of moving the school was Denver Police Chief Michael Delaney,
The school should be abandoned altogether or removed from its present location.
The question of changing the character of Market Street at this time cannot be
considered in connection with the school question. Market Street has been Market
Street since Denver has been Denver, and it would take years of combined effort on
the part of the police, the city officials and Denver citizens to change its condition.24 25
In the end, the tenderloin district never moved and the women continued
plying their trade. The people of Denver did not come to a decision about the school
in 1906, but this incident was just another coal added to the smoldering fire of
controversy over the evils of the red-light district. The school eventually closed in
1913 and school officials moved it to Twenty-fourth and Arapahoe Streets. In 1959
the schools name was changed to Crofton.
The sights, sounds and smells of the area were certainly not the optimum
living condition for raising children. In the alley between Holladay and Blake streets
between roughly Nineteenth and Twentieth was an area filled with opium dens known
as Hop Alley where more than just prostitution could be found.26 People said the
sweet smell of opium filled the air along Holladay Street. Other odors that surely
23 Parson Uzzffl and Judge Lindsey Call Meeting to Decide Best Way to Rescue Children from
Iniquitous Surroundings, Rocky Mountain News, November 15, 1906.
24 Parson Uzzill and Judge Lindsey Call Meeting to Decide Best Way to Rescue Children from
Iniquitous Surroundings, Rocky Mountain News, November 15,1906.
25 Forrest et al., History of the Public Schools of Denver, Western History/Genealogy Department,
Denver Public Library.
26 Fumes and Fancies, Rocky Mountain News, August 6, 1883, 8.
intermingled with the opium came from the open doors of the saloons, and the
whorehouses. Cigar smoke and booze from the saloons mixed with perfume and body
odors from the whores, surely must have given the area a distinctive aroma.27 28 In the
winter, the air would be choked with the smell of wood or coal coming from the
chimneys. Outside on the street the sounds of loud talking and fighting that
sometimes led to gunfights could be heard from the saloons. There are a good many
people shot here. If two men get to fighting they most always use revolvers, F.C.
Hoogstraat further said in his letter.29 The sounds of piano music coming from the
saloons and the brothels were probably heard regularly. Women wanting to increase
business would stand on their doorstep or lean out their window enticing men to enter
as they walked by. Boys went to the red-light district to get an education and to learn
about low-life, reported The Denver Post.30
Visually the area was probably in a constant state of movement with men
going in and out of saloons and brothels while people who had located their
respectable trade on Holladay Street were trying to conduct business. The sporting
women of the area were often scantily dressed, sometimes nude on the top. They
27 Secrest, Hells Belles, 117.
28 Noel, The City and the Saloon, 21.
29 Hoogstraat, 188? Letter.
30 Parents on Hill Send Sons to see Redlight Women, The Denver Post, January 16,1912,5.
could be seen in the windows and doors of their establishments using themselves as
advertisements for their business.31
Unlike the denizens of the parlor houses, the girls of the cribs made no pretense
of decorum. In a costume consisting of a low-necked, knee-length spangled dress
and black silk stockings, the crib girl stood in her doorway and solicited the male
shoppers who were strolling down the sidewalks, inspecting the merchandise.32 *
Not until 1900 did the Fire and Police Board require that the windows were to
have shutters and remain locked and all glass doors were to be frosted on all Market
Street immoral establishments. The Fire and Police Board even ordered property
owners to brick in some of the windows on the districts cribs and brothels, thus
entombing the women inside and out of sight.34
In 1870, amidst the semi-nude women were a variety of businesses such as
grocers, drugstores, watchmakers, barbers, dentists, restaurants and saloons.35 The
most common forms of employment listed for Market Street men were laborer, clerk,
and saloonkeeper.36 Many of the saloons doubled as brothels between the 500 and
the 700 block of Holladay Street. A Billiard Saloon listed at 722 Holladay, where
Hamilton Mario was the proprietor, also lists Emma Roberts, twenty-eight, and
'>1 Anne Seagraves, Soiled Doves; Prostitution in the Early West, (Hayden, ID: Wesanne Publications),
55; Secrest, Hells Belles, 105.
32 Secrest, Hells Belles, 102. A description by writer Cy Martin.
Screens for Vice, The Denver Times, January 28,1900.
34 Speer Created Tenderloin to Stock Heelers Purses; Trafficked InsoulsCreel, The Rocky
Mountain News, August 29,1912, 1.
35 1870 U.S. Census; these are only a few of the occupations found within the area.
35 1870 U.S. Census.
Juanita Foote, twenty-one, as residing there. Neither woman lists an occupation. A
few doors down at 726 Holladay, Bridget OBrian, twenty-five, and her sister Annie,
twenty-two, from Ireland were working for barkeeper John Laik.
In 1880, a shoe store, a few more restaurants and hotels set up shop in the
neighborhood. A ten pin alley also opened up for business within the 400 block of
Holladay Street.* 38 By 1900 the predominant male occupation of laborer from the
previous thirty years had changed to laundryman. This was due to the increased
population of Chinese immigrants to the area.39 By 1910 hardly any other businesses
were left in the area.40
Market Street was an ethnically and racially diverse neighborhood between
1870 and 1913. The districts African-American population remained constant
between ten to fifteen percent of the total population and was not always segregated.41
Many immigrants lived and worked in the district. According to the 1870 census, the
majority came from Ireland, England, Bavaria and Prussia.42 By 1880 the majorities
of foreign-bom persons came from Ireland and England, but were now also coming
j7 1870 U.S. Census. Juanita may not actually be Miss Footes first name since the writing is illegible.
38 1880 U.S. Census. The exact street address is illegible; the 1890 U.S. Census for Colorado no
longer exists that is why there is a fifteen-year span.
39 1900 U.S. Census; A section of the census has written Chinatown below the word Market Street.
40 1910 U.S. Census; of the 17 men who listed their occupations, only one lists himself as a shoemaker
and none of them list any of the previous businesses other than saloon proprietor.
41 1870 and 1910 U. S. Census.
42 1870 U.S. Census; Bavaria and Prussia were actually part of the German Empire at this time.
from Sweden. In 1885, of the one hundred and thirty-two immigrants tallied on
Market Street, Irish immigrants made up twenty-five percent, Germans twenty-two
percent, French nineteen percent and Canadians eleven percent.43 By 1900 the
majority of immigrants coming to Denvers red light district were from China, Japan
and Indonesia at thirty-seven percent. France was next at twenty percent, then
Germany, Belgium and Sweden at twelve percent with the remainder coming from
the British Isles and Canada. The final tally of 1910 immigration shows that the
largest numbers of immigrants to the district were from France at thirty-six percent,
followed by Germany at thirteen percent, and then Japan at nine percent.
__ Some of the prostitutes who came to Denver were also immigrants from other
countries. Approximately twenty-five percent of the women who worked in Denver
from 1870 to 1910 were immigrants, with the majority of them coming from France,
Ireland or England.44 According to the census in 1870, there were forty-one known
prostitutes ages sixteen to thirty-five, only seven percent of the total population.45 Of
these forty-one women, all of them were white except for five women who the census
takers listed as Black. Another five listed themselves as immigrants four were
from Ireland and one was from Prussia.
43 1880 U.S. Census; 1885 Colorado Census.
WU.S. Census 1870,1880,1900,1910; Colorado Census 1885.
45 1870 U.S. Census.
Immigration of Prostitutes 1870 -1910
In the 1870 census the most predominant occupation a woman listed was
keeping house. In 1880 more women wrote the word wife and generally did not
give an occupation if they did not work outside of the home.46 47 Of the seventy-nine
women who listed occupations, forty percent listed themselves as a seamstress and
twelve percent listed themselves as landladies, two of the most popular names for
occupations used by prostitutes. Eight of the women actually listed themselves as
sporting woman, another name for prostitute in the late nineteenth century.48 By
1880 there were sixty-seven known prostitutes in this area of Holladay Street ranging
in age of seventeen to forty-five with the majority of them between the ages eighteen
and nineteen years old.49
46 1870,1880, 1900, 1910 U.S. Census; 1885 Colorado Census.
47 1880 U.S. Census.
48 1880 U.S. Census.
49 1880 U.S. Census; Most of the brothels and the cribs were located within the six hundred block of
Holladay Street during this time.
Sporting Women 1870
Address " Name Color Age Relationship Occupation V c Place of Birth
614 Holladay Barton, Lizzie W 29 Mistress Sporting Woman America
614 Holladay Brown, Emilia? W ? Boarder Sporting Woman America
614 Holladay LaPage, Minnie W 22 Boarder Sporting Woman Pennsylvania
614 Holladay Bell, Cora W 22 Boarder Sporting Woman Iowa
614 Holladay Kirk, Alice W 19? Boarder Sporting Woman N. Hampshire
628 Holladay Bird, Nellie W 30 Mistress Sporting Woman Michigan
628 Holladay Booth, Alice W 28 Boarder Sporting Woman Alaska
628 Holladay Reed, Lulu W 25 Boarder Sporting Woman Michigan
In 1885 Colorado held its own census and according to the Arapahoe County
figures, the number of working women almost doubled in the 400 to the 800 block
of Holladay Street revealing that the red-light district grew much faster in this five-
year span of 1880 to 1885 than it did in the previous fifteen years.50 51 There were only
two males and eight females counted under the age of ten. Seven of these children
resided at houses of ill repute. The average age of prostitutes listed in the area was
twenty-seven years old. The youngest named Mattie Jacobs, age sixteen, residing at
518 Holladay Street the home of madam Belle Bernard, was listed as a white female
bom in the Utah territory, her parents where Russian and French.52
By 1900 the average age of a prostitute was twenty-nine years old. Forty-
seven percent of the women listed landlady as their occupation and forty-eight,
percent of the total number of women listed were either a lodger or boarder at a
50 1880 U.S. Census.
51 1885 Colorado Census; Working Women was another name used when referring to prostitutes.
52 1885 Colorado Census.
female boarding house. The final census taken before the demise of the district in
1910 shows prostitutes predominately made up the area. Within the red-light district
on Market Street there were approximately two hundred and thirty known prostitutes
listed in the 1910 U.S. Census. The womens occupations show a slight change from
previous years. Still at the top of the list are boarding house keeper/landlady,
dressmaker, seamstress, and servant. However, the prostitutes began to list new
occupations such as hairdresser, manicurist, artist, nurse, factory worker and own
income.53 By 1910 Market Street had become a well-known red-light district across
the west for men looking to have a good time while in Denver and nothing like the
diverse urban neighborhood it started out to be.
Pimps, Ponderers & Landlords
Of all the men found in the districts census from 1870 to 1910 it can not be
determined how many were legitimate workers trying to make an honest living and
how many covered up their real occupation as pimp, panderer or landlord. The
definition of a pimp and a panderer is a man who solicits clients for a prostitute.34
However, a pimp or a panderer could be considered anyone who made a profit from
or lived off the illegal wages of a working girl. There were a few of these men in
5j 1910 U.S. Census; Own Income was used several times by the prostitutes in the Occupation
section of the census.
54 Websters Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1998), 892; Henry
Campbell Black, Blacks Law Dictionary, (St Paid, MN: West Group, 1999), 1111.
the red-light district who made a profit from the prostitutes and some who were even
considered respectable citizens.
Women were not the only people who ran houses of ill repute in Denver.
Men ran lewd and disorderly houses just like women, but it was usually done from
the sidelines, not in direct involvement with the day-to-day business. Men viewed
this as a business venture, not as a means of survival as many women did, and for
most men who went into the business it proved an easy way to make a profit.55 The
evidence from the court records indicates that men usually skated by much easier than
many of the women.56 John Mahon pled not guilty when police arrested him in 1882
for keeping a disorderly house. The grand jury found they had enough evidence to
indict him, but the court never prosecuted Mahon. The court indicted John Sneible
for the same offense in 1884, but his case went to the criminal court. The records did
not indicate any further information on his case or the final outcome.57 58
In May 1886, the City of Denver charged Henry G. Elder, with keeping a
lewd house, at 2050 Holladay Street. The court also included in the charges
against Elder letting a house for common bawdy house. In other words, Elder was
55 Hobson, Uneasy Virtue, 38. Hobson states that before sex commerce was very organized the charge
of keeping did not necessarily mean managing a house, but only collecting the rent, which usually a
much higher rent.
56 According to the court records, men were not convicted as often as the prostitutes and their court
cases were usually dropped.
57 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 2526 & 3046.
58 By this time in 1866 the street numbers had changed from three to their current four digits. The
court records often interchanged Holladay Street and Market Street.
collecting rent for a house being used for the practice of prostitution and illegal
fornication.59 All charges were dropped and the court released Elder on his own
recognizance in December of that same year.60
Men who owned property in the red-light district usually did not live there.
They often lived in the more respectable parts of town where the cost of living was
actually lower than in the red-light district. Owners usually charged women of the
tenderloin three to four times higher rent than they did to average citizens. Landlords
charged fifteen to twenty-five dollars a week to the women who lived in the poorest,
shabbiest cribs. Madams who rented a house to use as a brothel could pay up to three
thousand dollars a month.61 62
In an effort to clean up the district in 1889 and expose some of the landlords,
the City of Denver arrested one hundred and eight men for letting house for common
bawdy house, with the majority of these houses on Holladay Street. Denver
officials charged several of the men more than once for the same offense depending
on the number of locations they leased to prostitutes. Officials also determined that
many of the men were committing other crimes such as keeping a disorderly house,
keeping a bawdy house and crimes against nature.63 Several of the cases indicted
59 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, Volume 3, 1884-1889.
60 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4432,4433.
61 Red Light Taxes must be Boosted Asserts Skinner, The Denver Post, October 25, 1912,20.
62 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, Volume 3, 1884-1889.
more than one man on the same charge who shared the leased property. Some of the
men arrested probably did not believe they were in the wrong, or felt they could be
called a pimp, even though they were living off the illegal wages of the prostitutes.
Police arrested Louis DeWerdt on April 29, 1889 for keeping a disorderly
house at 1931 Holladay and for letting house for common bawdy house at 2120,
2122,1929,1925 and 1925 V2 Holladay Street.* 64 Also charged with four counts of
renting property to prostitutes was Washington McClintock, who resided at the
McClintock Block, Sixteenth and Larimer.6S McClintocks properties were not in the
designated district but at 1624 to 1636 Wazee Street. Police charged Charles Collier,
who would later die in a fire in one of his houses on Market Street in 1905, with three
counts of keeping a common bawdy house at 2024,2028 (used by Georgia Bunch),
and 2030 Market Street and two counts of letting a house for a bawdy house in May
1889.66 Officials picked up John Siegrist at 1924 Market Street where he kept a
bawdy house and then charged him with two more counts of leasing property at 1926
6j Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 3995; crime against nature was considered an unnatural
act, usually sodomy.
64 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4419-4424,4320 & 4321. The court records continue
to use Holladay Street even after the name was changed to Market Street. 1931 was a brothel and the
other DeWerdt locations were a combination of cribs and brothels.
65 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4489-4492.
66 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4415,4416 & 4419; Sam Howe Scrapbook 1905-1911,
Clipping # 88395 Many Narrow Escapes in Tenderloin Fire, The Denver Times, April 24, 1905,
Colorado Historical Society.
and 1928 Holladay.67 Jacob Long held property at 1938,1944, and 1946 Holladay
Street. Madam Jennie Rogers leased the houses from Long at 1938 and 1944 Market
Street. Long was the only man to plead guilty to all charges. However, the court
never prosecuted any of the men and all charges were finally dropped by December
A few of the men charged for renting to women of ill repute, such as William
C. Ghost, were associated with respectable enterprises. Police also arrested Ghost
in 1889 on five charges of letting a house for a bawdy house. In the Denver City
Directory no occupation was listed for William. However, above William Ghosts
name in the directory is the Ghost Building at 15th n.w. cor. Glenarm listed along
with the name of Allen M. Ghost, realtor. Both Allen and William have the same
business address room 16, Champa, se. cor. 17th.69 Whether Allen and William
shared an interest in leasing property to illicit women is unknown, but it is highly
coincidental that one was a realtor and the other one was making a profit from the
women of red-light district. Denver District Court dropped the charges against
William and released him on his own recognizance.70
67 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4511 & 4512; Even though the street name had been
changed in 1887, Holladay and Market Streets were still used interchangeably in the court records.
68 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4477- 4479.
69 Denver City Directory, 1890.
70 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4452-4455.
During the cleanup of the city, prominent citizens like Phillip and Adolph
Zang, as well as Fred Sigel, and Louis Mack were also indicted for leasing property
to a Mrs. Wood at 1227 Nineteenth Street. Once again, a grand jury found that there
was enough evidence for conviction granting a true bill. A grand jury indictment
generally extended the duration of the case and increased the chances of the charges
being dropped before an actual trial took place.71 Zangs, Sigels and Macks
attorneys entered a motion to quash, the court set bail and by December of 1889 the
court dropped all charges against the four men.72 73
Many of these men arrested, such as Moritz Barth from Germany and Louis
Klipfel from France, remained in the area, were married and raised families. Police
arrested Barth in May 1889 and charged him with five counts of leasing his property
on Holladay Street for the purpose of prostitution. Officials released Barth on his
own recognizance and dropped all charges in December 1899.74 Again in 1912,
officials arrested Barth and charged him with keeping a lewd house, at 1910 Market
Street. A motion to quash the charge put forth by his attorney, stating that:
Simply because he owned some hundred different pieces of property which he leased
to different persons and one of his leases, without his knowledge, happened to be
conducting one of these places for immoral purposes. The indictment does not
specify which one of the hundred or more pieces of property which this defendant
71 Hobson, Uneasy Virtue, 37.
72 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4532.
73 1900 U.S. Census.
74 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4397; 4398; 4550; 4551; 4552. This is the first time
any arrest was found for Moritz Barth in the records researched.
owns was the property conducted for such purpose by the tenant or anybody else,
and from aught that appears, it may have been one of the houses rented of Mr. Barth
by some one of the more over jealous prosecutors.75
The court released Barth on a $1,000 bail and he was never prosecuted even
though there were twenty-one female witnesses listed on his indictment.76
From the 1900 and 1910 census records gathered, Barth was a married man
with one son, M. Allen, who later opened the Barth Hotel on 17th and Wazee
Streets.77 The Barth family lived at 1773 Sherman Street, a fashionable Capitol Hill
address. In 1900 Barth was sixty-six years old and in real estate. By 1910, Moritz
Barth lived in a boarding house on Broadway. The census taker listed him as married
and still working in real estate. The last time Barth appears in the court records was
after his arrest in 1912 for again renting property to a prostitute.78 The court later
released him on a $1,000 bail. The records do not indicate the outcome of Barths
arrest. But like most of the other menwhsLiw^^^ted in 1912, the court probably
dropped the charges. Barth was just one example of societys double-standard
regarding men and women.
Another predominant Market Street landlord that police arrested was thirty-
four year old Louis Klipfel, owner of the Alcazar Dance Hall. In 1889, police
75 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 20790, Motion to Quash.
76 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 20790.
77 Tom Noel, Barth Hotel a Relic of Skid-Row Days, Rocky Mountain News, December 10,2005,
2D; Directory of Colorado State Register Properties, http:// www.coloradohistory-
78 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4467,4468,4469,4470,4471,4472.
charged Klipfel with six counts of letting a house for a common bawdy house at
1932,1934 1936 1724,1726 and 1730 Market Street.79 80 The judge set bail; the court
released Klipfel and then never prosecuted him. According to the 1900 census, he
was actually living at 2000 Market Street, married and raising a six-year old daughter,
Bertha, in the heart of the red-light district. It would take many years before the
courts finally prosecuted men for their involvement in prostitution. On the other hand;
the women of the district became targets of daily ridicule, harassment and
As the district changed, more pimps, streetwalkers and vagrants appeared
along Market Street. Today when we envision pimps we think of men who are
generally seedy, controlling, dishonest, and morally corrupt. Not much has changed
since 1891 when Detective Sam Howe spoke of the white-collared lovers of Market
They are worse than the women. They lie around these houses, wear diamonds and
fine clothes, which the women pay for, and are ready to help dope and rob any
greeny who is roped in. They are the worst nuisances in town, and we propose to see
that this section of the town is regulated and run, as far as possible, with decency.84
79 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4467,4468,4469,4470,4471,4472.
80 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4467,4468,4469,4470,4471,4472.
81 Goldman, Gold Diggers & Silver Miners, 156-7.
82 A. Kaufman, Historic Supplement of the Denver Police: a review from earliest days to the present
time, (Denver, CO: Specially published for the Benefit of the Denver Police Mutual Aid Fund, 1890),
665; Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 78.
8j Denver Times, June 1,1891, n.p.
84 Denver Times, June 1,1891, n.p.
Some of the better-known pimps, panderers or Macquereaux of the area were
Michael Ryan, Jim Ryan, Curley Mathews, Jack Maynard and Bert Lustig.85 Some
people of the underworld said that it is not the pimp that makes the prostitute, but the
prostitute that makes the pimp.86 Minnie Hall could be considered one of those
prostitutes. She was quite predominant in Denvers red-light district and worked for
Michael Ryan. When he was arrested in 1891 it was Minnie who helped him escape
from prosecution. He literally jumped from the window of the jail into a waiting
buggy driven by Minnie Hall. It was a short-lived escape however. Police soon
caught Ryan and brought him back to jail where his wife was waiting for him.87 Not
all prostitutes would risk jail or prosecution to protect their Macquereaux, especially
if she had been forced into the sordid life of prostitution or been treated violently.
Violence in the Red-Light District
Living in a brothel was definitely a better existence for many prostitutes. Not
only did it provide more money and a better standard of living, but it offered illicit
women some form of protection against the abuse of pimps and customers
experienced by women who worked in cribs or on the streets.88
85 Clifford Roe, The Great War on White Slavery, (Copyright 1911; Reprint New York: Garland
Publishing, 1979), 99. Macquereaux is the French term for pimp.
86 Claude Jaget, ed. Prostitutes in Our Life: Translated by Anna Furse, Suzie Fleming & Ruth Hall,
(Great Britain: Falling Wall Press, 1980), 179.
87 Clipped His Wings, Rocky Mountain News, December 11,1891, 8.
88 Hobson, Uneasy Virtue, 163.
Prostitutes were (and still are) a target for crime and as the brothels closed the
violence increased. Between 1870 and 1913 occasional articles would appear in
the newspapers about violence toward prostitutes. In 1886 an incident occurred at
529 Holladay Street where inmate Bessie Livingston was shot. The newspaper
reported that Livingstons client by the name of Hutton accidentally shot her and
she was not expected to live at the time of the report.89 90 In 1892, policeman H.G.
Camell shot and killed Ed Baker at Blanch Browns House of Prostitution at
twentieth and Market. Brown claimed that Baker attempted to rob her. Baker
resisted arrest and was shot, after assaulting Officer Camell.91
In 1894, three prostitutes were murdered by strangulation on Market Street.
The first two were French prostitutes Lena Tapper and Marie Contasset. The third,
Kika Oyama was Japanese. The first, Lena Tapper, found on her bed at 1911 Market
Street, was choked to death apparently with part of her skirt.92 Denver District
Court indicted Richard Demady in Lenas murder, but the jury found him not guilty.93
Several weeks later on October twenty-eighth, police found twenty-five year old
Marie Contasset at 1925 Market Street choked to death on her bed.94 Police
89 Jaget, Prostitutes in Our Life, 192.
90 Was it Accidental, The Denver Times, October 25,1886.
91 Sam Howe Murder Book, #111, Microfilm, Colorado Historical Society.
92 Sam Howe Murder Book, # 664; Secrest, Hells Bells, 275.
9j Sam Howe Murder Book, # 133; Secrest, Hells Bells, 276.
suspected Demady in Contassets murder as well, according to Detective Sam
Howes Murder Book. A handwritten note in Howes records states, Demandy tried
and acquitted.94 95 The third murder victim was Kika Qyama, who police found
strangled to death at 1957 Market Street on November 13,1894, just two weeks after
Marie. The neighborhood was in a state of shock, especially the prostitutes, with a
serial killer on the loose and not knowing who may be the next victim. The papers
were now calling the red-light district Stranglers Row and comparing the murders
to Jack the Ripper. Police never caught the murderer, but the killings stopped until
Crime in the vice district continued to grow after the tum-of-the-century and
more robberies and assaults occurred, especially toward the women.96 Pimp Con
Keleher, alias Cooney the Fox, owned a dive on Market Street. He was accused on
several occasions of having his saloon clients beaten, robbed and thrown out.97 He
also beat up the women who worked for him. On May 26,1902 The Denver Times
reported that Keleher beat a woman in a Denver drug store. The woman was Hazel
Bristol, alias Kittie Collins, who worked for Keleher at Nineteenth and Market
94 Sam Howe Murder Book, # 100.
95 Sam Howe Murder Book, # 100.
96 Sam Howe Murder Book, #155.
97 Police Let Slip Murderous Thugs, no name of paper, June 16,1901, Denver Moral Conditions
Clippings File, Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy Department
Streets. She was the boss of all his disreputable women.98 The police never
arrested Keleher for the incident. Scenes such as these usually occurred in private
between the pimp and the prostitute, rarely making the newspapers.
In 1903 the women of the tenderloin district once again faced an unknown
murderer who made the headlines in the local papers. The first victim was Mrs.
Antoine Kenhan, an elderly Syrian peddler.99 Mable Brown, the next victim, was a
twenty-year old prostitute who was strangled to death on her bed at 1931 Market
Street on July 6,1903. Police accused bartender Harry Challis, Browns boyfriend
with her murder, but evidence proved otherwise and Challis was never charged with
_her murder.100 The women were suspicious of another triple homicide happening in
the district like the strangulation murders of 1894. However, the next attempted
murder did not occur until a year later when Marie Barielli, another French prostitute,
had her throat slashed at 1318 Twenty-First Street. Marie fortunately survived her
ordeal and accused a black ex-convict named George Whitson, alias Special. Police
found him with blood stains on his clothes and two of his fingers bitten where Marie
said she bit him during the struggle. He later confessed to the crime and said he did it
because she was trying to take all of his money.101
98 Assaulted Woman, The Denver Times, May 26,1902.
99 Horror of Another Strangling Mystery Frightens the Wantons of Market Street, The Rocky
Mountain News, July 7,1903.
109 Sam Howe Murder Book, #113; Secrest, Hell "s Belles, 278; Horror of Another Strangling Mystery
Frightens the Wantons of Market Street, The Rocky Mountain News, July 7,1903.
Prostitutes were fair game for any number of misogynistic men who wanted to
act out their fantasies or hostilities towards women.101 102 Women in the brothels at least
had some protection against abusive customers due to the other people in the house or
because male employees, like the bartender or piano player, were there to protect
them. But women who worked alone in a crib or on the streets did not have the same
protection and became easy targets. Some bought police protection, especially when
the red-light district was in operation, but it was a costly endeavor and one that the
lower-class prostitutes could not easily afford.103 Unfortunately, it only got worse
for the women when the district closed.
We will never know how many women and girls went into prostitution of
their own free will, but it is evident from newspaper articles and court records that
forced prostitution or kidnapping, otherwise known as white slavery, existed in early
Denver as well as the twentieth century.104 Not all procurers of white slavery were
men. Women were equally guilty when it came to enticing young women. A well-
known woman from Peoria, Illinois named Rose Tyrad was in Denver to entice young
girls and take them back to her illicit resort in Illinois, reported a Rocky Mountain
101 Police Have Good Clew, The Rocky Mountain News, July 18,1904,1.
ld2 Jaget, Prostitutes in Our Life, 192.
103 Schneider, American Women, 140.
104 Roe, The Great War on White Slavery, 170. White Slavery is the traffic of girls from one place to
another to supply houses of ill repute or for other purposes of prostitution.
News article in 1890. She apparently lured fourteen-year old Kittie Leonard into ruin,
with the help of a well-known Denver butcher. The Denver Police finally found poor
Kittie and brought her home. A few days later Kittie returned to Rose. The
newspaper said that temptation was too great Kittie sold her soul for elegant
dresses and a fine new hat.105 Kittie, like many other girls who were enticed into
prostitution by means of entrapment or white slavery did so with some knowledge
of what they were getting themselves into.106
By the early 1900s, kidnapped young girls and white slavery filled headlines
almost daily in Denvers newspapers:
Girl Sleuth Has Alleged White Slaver Jailed, Girl, 15, Kidnaped [sic] at Depot,
Juvenile Officers Believe, 21 Girls are Lured from City Homes in Five Months,
White Slavery Charge Against Landladies.107
Parents feared anytime their daughters were missing that they had become victims of
white slavery and the fear became widespread throughout the nation in the early
1900s.108 Runaways often falsely accused men and women, such as in the story of
the Union Depot kidnap victim, fifteen-year old Elsie Chesley. It turned out she ran
105 Entrapping Girls, Rocky Mountain News, June 23, 1890,7.
106 Paul J. Goldstein, Drugs and Prostitution, (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1979), 88.
107 Sam Howe Scrapbook 1912 Volume 31,1913-1914 Volumes 32 and33. Clipping # 59904;
Colorado Historical Society; Girl, 15 Kidnaped at Depot, Juvenile Officers Believe, Rocky Mountain
News, January 5,1913,1; 21 Girls are Lured From City Homes in Five Months, Rocky Mountain
News, January 6,1912,2; White Slavery Charge Against Landladies, Denver Republican, June 28,
108 Roe, The Great War on White Slavery, 95.
away to get married and told police she had been drugged and taken to a house on
But there were actual cases in Denver of white slavery and enticement of
young girls. In 1891, Denver Police charged J.S. Ewing and William Hall with
enticing to a house of bad repute. They reportedly enticed fifteen-year old Kittie
Mulligan to an assignation house called the Gem. The judge set bail at five
hundred dollars each. The grand jury found enough evidence to convict by issuing a
true bill. The last entry in the court records said that the case was to be continued.
The court record did not leave any other information about whether Ewing and Hall
were convicted for the enticement of Kittie Mulligan.110
Men who enticed young girls into a sordid life usually did so by making false
promises such as marriage, wealth or fame.111 112 A Kansas farmers daughter, Susie
Eddy, accused F. Yamamata of white slavery by promising her marriage. Several
days later she was soliciting herself in a crib at 2138 Market Street. Susie decided to
go the police and turn herself in. Other women did not get off as easy and were
109 Girl Relates Weird Story of Kidnapping, Denver Republican, January 6, 1913, 7; Girl Tells
Truth of Kidnapping; Wanted to Marry Boy, Was All, Denver Republican, January 16,1913, 12.
110 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 6506.
111 Roe, The Great War on White Slavery, 95.
112 Pretty Girl Held in White Slavery: Accuses Japanese, Rocky Mountain News, August 31,1912,2.
sometimes locked up, their clothes taken away and not allowed outside. If they tried
to escape, they were beaten until they were numb to their new life.113
Frank Hitchcock, 41, a laborer, is held at the county jail pending action by
Inspector Mansfield of the United States immigration bureau, who charges him
with bringing Mrs. Laura Brown, 22, and mother of three children from
Minnesota to Denver, for immoral purposes. Brown charges that she was beaten
when she tried to leave and enter a new life.114
In 1909, Pueblo Senator David M. Campbell sponsored the prostitution bill
that targeted pimps and procurers in the traffic of women.
Any male or female person, over the age of eighteen years, who shall procure,
encourage, persuade, induce or prevail upon any female person of previous
chaste character to have sexual intercourse for hire, with any male person other
than himself shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall
be punished by imprisonment in the Penitentiary for not less than one year nor
more than five years.115
The following year Congress passed the Mann Act to regulate interstate commerce, as
a means of addressing the problem of prostitution.116
In 1913, Denver Police charged Jessie Alexander, alias Jessie Anderson, with
white slavery. The court records indicate that, Alexander, a female person over
the age of eighteen, was supported in whole or in part by one Vina Darbin, a female
person, through prostitution.117 The jury convicted Alexander and she was
113 Francesco Cordasco with Thomas Monroe Pitkin, The White Slave Trade and the Immigrants: A
Chapter in American Social History, (Detroit, MI: Blaine Ethridge Books, 1920), 99; Roe, The Great
War on White Slavery, 172, 180.
114 Girl White Slave She Tells Police: Has Man Arrested, Rocky Mountain News, August 27,1912,1.
115 Marjorie Benham, Women in the Colorado State Penitentiary:1873-1916, Masters Thesis, 1998,
116 Benham, Women in the Colorado State Penitentiary, 54.
sentenced to serve eighteen months in the Colorado State Penitentiary. She was the
first woman convicted of white slavery. A year later prison officials released Jessie
from prison and placed her on parole for six months.117 118
In 1913, when the district shut down, the fear of white slavery peaked across
the nation. Information leaflets like the Traffic in Girls were used as a method to
warn young girls and parents about the dangers of associating with immoral men,
drink, and opium cigarettes.119 120 Several larger cities like New York and Chicago each
produced a formal study regarding the illegal traffic of women. They found that
the standards society was pushing on young women, especially working class women,
influenced simple girls to try to live beyond their means.121 The studies were
presented to President Woodrow Wilson after their completion to promote a
nationwide vice crusade. Wilson promised to look into the issue and meet with the
governors from each state.122 123 The reform women cried out to Wilson to give them the
vote and they would raise the age of consent and put an end to the illicit traffic.
117 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case, 21699.
118 Benham, Women in the Colorado State Penitentiary, 54.
119 Mrs. Charlton Edholm, The Traffic in Girls, Tucson, Arizona, date unknown, Denver Moral
Conditions Clippings File, Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy Department
120 Denver to Lead World Fight Against White Slavers: International body Creates Headquarters
Here, Rocky Mountain News, January 6, 1912,1.
121 Slave Traffic Vice Up Before Wilson, Denver Republican, March 23, 1913,1.
122 Slave Traffic Vice Up Before Wilson, Denver Republican, March 23,1913,1.
123 Slave Traffic Vice Up Before Wilson, Denver Republican, March 23,1913, 1.
In 1912, The Anti-White Slave Association Branch of the International Anti-
White Slave Association joined the Denver crusade to stop illicit traffic in women.124
They felt that the churches did not do enough to stop the traffic of girls so they
formed their own coalition against social evil in Denver.125 126 The purpose of then-
association was to suppress and prevent commercialized vice, and to promote the
highest standards of public and private morals. They strongly believed that men and
saloons made the traffic of women possible and even listed businessmen who leased
and rented property out for prostitution as playing a large part in Denvers
commercialized sex trade.
The Police Raids
A precise count of the men and women arrested in Denver for prostitution is
impossible due to missing court records, but from the larger raids we can get an idea
of who, when and where the arrests took place. Beginning in January 1880, Denver
Police began raiding die houses of ill repute and arresting the madams. Women
seemed to ignore the established ordinances by appearing barely clothed on the street
and openly plying their trade in plain view of children and respectable women. As
time went on, more outcries from respectable citizens poured out to close the district
124 Denver to Lead World Fight Against White Slavers: International body Creates Headquarters
Here, Rocky Mountain News, January 6,1912,1.
125 Denver Anti-White Slave Association, Colorado Historical Society, 301.41 In8de. Why it was
called Anti-White was not clear in their pamphlet. It could have been because they were not just
trying to save the Caucasian women, but women of all colors and races.
126 Denver Anti- White Slave Association, Colorado Historical Society, 301.41 In8de.
and stop the commercial sex trade on Market Street. As the raids and arrests increased
in intensity, life, as the disorderly women knew it, would soon change.
One of the first raids conducted, according to the court records, was on
January 19, 1880. Police arrested twenty Denver madams for keeping a lewd
house. However, not all of them were located on Holladay Street. During one of
raids, police arrested Mrs. O.B. Brace, but never prosecuted her. She ran her
establishment at 212 13th Street and was listed in the Denver City Directory as the
owner of a restaurant and saloon.127 128 Of the other nineteen madams, six of them had
establishments along Holladay Street, but not within the so-called district Mrs.
.Cochranes establishment was at 296 Holladay, between 12th and 13th Streets. She
pled not guilty and the court never prosecuted her. The remaining twelve madams
addresses were not listed in the court records.
Eleven of the madams pled guilty to the charge of keeping a lewd house.
The court fined them fifty dollars plus costs and then released all eleven.129 Lizzie
Preston (whose real name was Hannah Foster) and Catherine Evans, alias Rosa
Lovejoy and Madame Lovejoy of 533 Holladay, were among the eleven pleading
guilty. Elizabeth Duell pled not guilty then changed her plea to guilty. The Denver
127 District Court Inverse Index, Criminal Division, Volume 2,1879-1884, Colorado State Archives.
m Denver City Directory, 1880; Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case #1731.
129 Denver District Court Inverse Index,1879 -1884.
lj0 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 1742 & 1741.
comity court fined her fifty dollars plus court costs.131 On September 25,1B80 police
arrested Georgia Duell for keeping a disorderly house. She pled not guilty and the
court set a trial to jury on November 9, 1880.132 The jury found Georgia guilty and
released her on her own recognizance, fined her twenty-five dollars plus court costs
of eighty-three dollars. Kate Fulton, of 505 Holladay, had two charges against her -
keeping a tippling house open on Sabbath day as well as keeping a lewd house.133
Mattie Silks, of 502 Holladay, was the only madam to pay a significantly smaller
charge of five dollars for court costs, and then had all of her charges dismissed.134
Once again in the month of January in 1885, the people living and working on
Holladay Street were awakened to the sounds of police raiding the bawdy
establishments of the neighborhood. Police arrested fourteen of Denvers madams
and charged them with keeping a lewd house.135 It would seem whenever file
citizens of Denver cried for action to rid the city of its social evil, especially in an
election year, or when the city was strapped for cash, the police would raid the red-
light section and place the entrepreneurs under arrest.136
131 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 1733.
132 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case if- 2065.
133 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 1736; A tippling house was a location that sold
134 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 1745.
135 Denver District Court Inverse Index, People s Cases, 1884-1889 Volume 3.
The last few nights the police have been busily occupied among the houses of
infamy, pulling those institutions, and the result has been quite an increase in
the smn paid over by the police court to the city treasury.136 137 *
Five hundred and ten dollars was collected from ten of the madams during this raid.
The records did not have any information regarding the fine or prosecution of the
other four madams.
Arrests of Madams 1885
Arrest Date Last Name ** ^ * First Name ; Charges. Verdict
01/17/1885 Bernard Belle Keeping a Lewd House $25 + costs
01/17/1885 Bunch Georgia Keeping a Lewd House $25 + costs
01/17/1885 Clifford Minnie Keeping a Lewd House Removed & certified to the criminal court
01/17/1885 Cole Alice Keeping a Lewd House $25 + costs
01/17/1885 Cottrell Maggie Keeping a Lewd House $25 + costs
01/17/1885 Jones Pauline Keeping a Lewd House $25 + costs
01/17/1885 Lewis Eva Keeping a Lewd House $100
01/17/1885 Lovejoy Rose Keeping a Lewd House No Information Available
01/17/1885 Grippen Lou Keeping a Lewd House $60 + costs
01/17/1885 Newhouse Julia Keeping a Lewd House $25 + costs
01/17/1885 Preston Lizzie Keeping a Lewd House $100 + costs
01/17/1885 Rogers Jennie Keeping a Lewd House $100 + costs
01/17/1885 Thompson Della Keeping a Lewd House Removed & cert to the criminal court
01/17/1885 Ulman Jane Keeping a Lewd House No Information Available
Of the other madams arrested, most had businesses with several women
working for them and in the realm of better class establishments. However, there
were also one-room structures otherwise known as cribs that generally were large
enough to only accommodate a bed, a washstand, and a stove in Denvers red-light
136 Mackell, Brothels, Bordellos & Bad Girls, x. Forward by Tom Noel; Goldman, The Traffic in
Women, 19; Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, xi.
Ij7 Raiding the Dens, The Denver Times, March 29, 1886.
lj8 Denver District Court Inverse Index.
district.139 Sometimes two or three women worked in a single crib at various times.
These buildings were often attached to saloons or nestled behind or joined next to
another building.140 Other names used for cribs were dives, dens, holes and nests.
The women who worked in these places were only one step above the
streetwalkers.141 As in the rest of American society, prostitution had its own social
structure established within the red-light districts based on class status. A woman in
the lower levels of the trade did not associate with the upper class brothel worker, nor
could she expect to receive clientele above her status.142 Julia Newhouse, alias Julia
Emerson, of497-14 Holladay fell into this category. A twenty-seven year old, single,
white woman bom in Indiana, Julia listed her occupation as a teacher on the census
records. She pled guilty to the charges of keeping a lewd house and paid her fine of
twenty-five dollars plus court costs.143
By 1886, the court charged another seventy-four women for keeping a lewd
house. One included charges for letting a house for common bawdy house.144
Catherine Evans (alias Madame Lovejoy or Rose Lovejoy) not only ran a lewd house
139 Seagraves, Soiled Doves, 60; Secrest, Hells Belles, 176.
140 Sandborn Insurance Maps.
141 Butler, Daughters of Joy, xviii; Washburn, The Underworld Sewer, 158; Hobson, Uneasy Virtue,
142 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, xiv; Goldman, Gold Diggers & Silver Miners, 73.
143 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, Case #3056.
144 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, Volume 3,1884-1889.
she also owned and rented the property to prostitutes at 1956,1960,1962, and 2005
Holladay Street.145 Four of the other women arrested in the 1886 raid had the same
last name of Stiles. They all decided to change their names on May 15th, not an
uncommon practice for the women according to the Denver court records. Julia Stiles
changed her name to Toy Ting, Rebecca Stiles changed her name to Gum Sing,
Hattie Stiles changed her name to Ah Fung, and Jane Stiles changed her name to
Nellie Taylor, the only one who did not choose a Chinese name. None of the pleas
were recorded, but all four of the women were Certified and Removed to the
An article appeared in the November 27, 1886 Denver Times about eighteen
or twenty women, charging them with keeping lewd houses.147 The cases were
transferred to the Criminal Court where they all pled not guilty. By the twenty-ninth
of November most of the women appeared before Judge Platt Rogers, who later
postponed their trials.148
145 By this time in 1866 the street numbers had changed from three to their current four digits.
146 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, Volume 3, 1884-1889.
147 The Raid on theSyrens, The Denver Times, November 27,1886.
148 Judge Platt Rogers would be elected mayor of Denver in 1891.
Unknown woman in Jail
Photographed by Harry M. Rhoads
Photo Courtesy Denver Public Library 149
Western History/Genealogy Department
149 Harry M. Rhoads, Woman in Jail, Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public
Jennie Rogers, who the court found guilty, and fined seventy-five dollars, was
the only prostitute to actually go to trial. Jennie appealed to the Colorado Supreme
Court and her case was pending until December 1886.150 Denver District Court
records indicate that none of the cases that were Certified and Sent to the Criminal
Court ever went to trial.151 152
No reports of raids or arrests in the district from 1887 to the end of 1888 were
found in the court records. Yet, according to the Rocky Mountain News the raids
continued largely due to public sentiment the News had built up. The newspaper
also said that the raids of the Holladay Street bagnios and other places of vice would
not stop until all persons of the underworld were punished. The article goes on to
list other locations in Denver that were suspect such as Leslie & Sieberts saloon at
the comer of Nineteenth and Arapahoe. A man and a woman were apparently caught
in the act while in the saloon.153
City Council passed the Sunday Closing Ordinance on May 5,1889 to
eliminate the sale of alcohol, drinking, gambling and otherwise vulgar behavior in
Denver between midnight Saturday and Monday morning.154 According to the Rocky
150 Criminal and County Court: Both in Session The Lewd House and Gambling Cases Continued,
The Denver Times, November 29, 1886.
151 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, Volume 3,1884-1889.
152 Side Entry Saloons, Rocky Mountain News, May 5,1888,1.
153 Side Entry Saloons, Rocky Mountain News, May 5, 1888,1.
154 Those Pledges, Rocky Mountain News, May 5,1889, 6.
Mountain News this ordinance was to suppress the liquor traffic on Sunday, not to
take the place of eliminating the women of the vicious district.155 The women had
already been suppressed with the raids that took place a few days prior to passing of
the ordinance. Between April fourth and May eleventh, Denver officials instituted
the largest raid in the red-light districts history with the arrests of over three hundred
men and women for keeping a lewd house, keeping a disorderly house, or
letting a house for common bawdy house.156 Also during the raid the court
charged approximately seventy men and women with the offense of Crime Against
Nature. Unfortunately, all of the men charged listed their name as John Doe so it
is impossible to determine whom these men were, clients, pimps or both.
At 1714 Holladay Street, police arrested Mary Roe and John Doe and charged
them with Crime Against Nature. Donald Fletcher, a prominent Denver realtor
who founded the town of Aurora, led the grand jury which determined that there was
enough evidence for them to stand trial. According to the other information found
from the court records, James Dace and Francois Serventies leased 1714 Holladay to
155 nj0Se pledges, Rocky Mountain News, May 5,1889,6.
156 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, Volume 3,1884-1889; Black, Blacks Law
Dictionary, 153,469-470 There is not much difference between a disorderly house and a bawdy or
lewd house. The main difference according to Blacks Law Dictionary is a bawdy or lewd house is
maintained for the convenience and resort of persons desiring unlawful sexual connection. A
disorderly house is a place where residents or inhabitants behave in such a manner as to become a
nuisance to the neighborhood. One where acts are performed which tend to corrupt morals of
community or promote breaches of peace.
Mary Louise.157 It can be determined from this information that Mary Roe was Mary
Louise, but John Does identity remains a mystery.
Never before, and probably never again will there be such a gathering of
depraved women assembled at one time in a Denver Court. There were over 100 of
them and right patiently and quietly they awaited the calling of their cases.158 This
raid was not like the others, but actually intended to rid Denver of many of its
prostitutes. The judge made it clear to the prostitutes before the trials began, that if
any of the fallen women pled guilty they would be sentenced to six months in the
county jail with the option of escaping imprisonment by leaving Denver
immediately.159 Sixteen of the women did plead guilty and none of them appeared in
the court records again, at least none of their names appeared again.
The remaining women pled not guilty and over three quarters of the
prostitutes were cited for both keeping a lewd house and keeping a disorderly
house. Many of these women arrested in the 1889 raid worked in Denver for many
years to come, such as Catherine Evans, Lizzie Preston, Minnie Hall and Anna Ryan.
Only fifteen arrests occurred between 1892 and 1899 for people running a
lewd or disorderly house according to the court records.160 Of the fifteen arrests
157 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4004,4006,4417 & 4639.
158 Forlorn Females, Rocky Mountain News, May 5, 1889,6.
159 Forlorn Females, Rocky Mountain News, May 5,1889,6.
160 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, Volume 3,1884-1889.
recorded, only one was male. Based on evidence from previous raids, these numbers
seem surprisingly low, especially since Governor Davis Waite, a Populist and a
reformer, vowed to clean up Denver during his reign of 1892 to 1894. Perhaps the
numbers were low because Denver city officials opposed Waite every step of the way
and favored letting the red-light district and saloons continue doing business while
shielding the prostitutes and gamblers.161 It would still be another eighteen years
before Denver officials could agree that the district needed to be cleaned up and
Denver needed to be rid of the Market Street underworld.
By the tum-of-the-twentieth-century it was not only the keepers of the
establishment who police arrested, but inmates as well. Beginning in 1901 more
frequent arrests of lower class prostitutes were found in the records along with the
charges changing to soliciting, inmate, or vagrancy.162 Between 1901 and
1904 one hundred and seventy-six arrests appear in the court records for women
soliciting or charged with being an inmate at a house of ill repute. The number of
people arrested for keeping drop substantially when only twelve people were
arrested, eleven women and one man.163 Starting in 1905, the records indicate that
161 Leonard & Noel, Mining Camp to Metropolis, 105-6.
162 David Pivar, Purity Crusade, Sexual Morality & Social Control, 1868-1900, (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, Inc., 1973), 29.
163 Denver District Court Inverse Index Criminal Volume 3 15060-16399 September 10, 1901 May
21,1904; Police Magistrates Conviction Record Volume 18 November 1901-March 1902; Police
Court Magistrates Conviction Record Volume 20 32784-34063 September, 1902 -April 1903; Denver
Police Magistrate Conviction Record Volume 24 37898-39173 May 1904-August 1904, Colorado State
Archives. Magistrates are weekend judges.
the court used the word prostitution and police arrested three women for this
charge.164 Seventy-seven arrests for prostitution occurred in 1906, four for keeping
a disorderly house and three charges for being an inmate of a disorderly house. One
of inmates police arrested was a male by the name of John Rolland. He was carrying
four dollars and eighty-five cents and a key when police took him to jail. The court
later dismissed Rollands charges.165
Between 1906 and 1911 no more raids were recorded in the Denver Court
records. In 1911, Mayor Robert W. Speer ordered the cribs closed and the
tenderloin district to be placed under more rigid regulations.166 167 Speer did not favor
getting rid of the district nor did he want to improve the lives of those who lived in
the neighborhood. As a matter of fact, Speer was a supporter of liquor interests and
tolerated a regulated red-light district. This is probably why the information was
not available regarding any raids for this five-year period. The cribs were to be tom
down and made into two-story buildings or their foundation raised so that the women
inside could not be seen from the street all in the interest of the opening of the
Twentieth Street Viaduct.168
164 Denver District Court Inverse Index -Criminal May 3,1904-May 1?, 1907.
165 Denver District Court Inverse Index -Criminal May 3, 1904-May 1 ?, 1907.
166 Speer Orders 300 Cribs Closed, The Denver Post, October 17,1911, 6 c2;Cribs Ordered to
Close at Midnight, The Denver Post, October 21,1911,4.
167 Leonard & Noel, Mining Camp to Metropolis, 134.
With the formal opening of the new twentieth street viaduct next week the south
approach of which begins on Twentieth Street just north of Market, there will be
extensive traffic through that vicinity. The purpose of the city administration is to
remove all offensive sights before this opening.168 169
In 1912, Speer did not seek re-election and voters elected Henry J. Arnold the
next mayor of Denver. Arnold did not tolerate vice in Denver as Speer had, so in
1912 the raids began again. On April Fools Day of that year, police arrested one
hundred and eighty-three people for keeping a bawdy, disorderly or lewd house or as
a witness to such an act.170 Again in August another raid took place in the district,
this time with thirty-five arrests in the court records. Out of the total arrests for 1912
sixty-nine of them were men, one hundred and thirty-seven of them were women and
twelve of them were of unknown gender.171 Of those of unknown gender, five of
them either did not have a first name listed in the court records or just had an initial.
Four of them had names that could be used for either gender and the other three
names were Dong Dong, Dong Jow and Dong Yow, their gender unrecognizable.172
168 Speer Orders 300 Cribs Closed, The Denver Post, October 17, 1911,6; Cribs Ordered to Close
at Midnight, The Denver Post, October 21,1911,4; Market Street Resorts Closed by Mayors
Order, The Denver Post, October 22, 1911,10, All of the Cribs on Market Street to be Remodeled,
The Denver Post, November 1,1911,2; More information on Mayor Speer and closing of the district
will follow in chapter 5.
169 Speer Orders 300 Cribs Closed, The Denver Post, October 17,1911,6.
170 Denver District Court Inverse Index Criminal Volume 6 May 13-1910 -1913.
171 Many of the first names in the court records are illegible, can be used for either gender or are only
initials and the gender of the arrested cannot be determined.
172 Denver District Court Inverse Index Criminal Volume 6 May 13-1910 1913.
One of the well-known people arrested in April 1912 was Michael Delaney,
former Denver Police Chief, and a proponent of keeping the district intact during the
debate over the Twenty-fourth Street School. The police department Delaney once
served arrested and charged him with fourteen counts of keeping a bawdy house.173
The court placed the six women who reportedly worked for him under a two hundred
dollar bond to ensure their attendance at the grand jury and at the criminal court trial.
The court retained the prostitutes as witnesses and disallowed their indictment or
arrests in the case. The city officials just wanted to strike fear into the hearts of the
property owners, the Rocky Mountain News stated.174 Many of the women who the
court retained as witnesses for the grand jury trial fled, according to the newspaper.175
During Delaneys testimony the prosecutors hoped that he would finally name
prominent men and link them in the utilities corporations election frauds, including
stolen franchises, the stolen election ballots for the Denver Tramway Company and
blackmailing of area merchants.176 The grand jury planned to use the former police
chief in the clean up of the city and the corruption that went hand in hand with
keeping the district open.
17j Denver District Court Inverse Index Case it 20796,20797,20798,20799; Arrest Michael Delaney,
Fruend and Etta Kelley; Indict 110 in Vice Crusade, Rocky Mountain News, August 29,1912,1.
174 Arrest Michael Delaney, Fruend and Etta Kelley; Indict 110 in Vice Crusade, Rocky Mountain
News, August 29,1912,1.
175 Arrest Michael Delaney, Fruend and Etta Kelley; Indict 110 in Vice Crusade, Rocky Mountain
News, August 29,1912,1.
176 Arrest Michael Delaney, Fruend and Etta Kelley; Indict 110 in Vice Crusade, Rocky Mountain
News, August 29,1912,5.
In the next days Rocky Mountain News, an article appeared stating that the
judge placed an order for the arrest of one hundred and fifty denizens of the
underworld to appear before the grand jury. This was an attempt to clean out the
district while the grand jury were still in session, even though the prior days
newspaper said the women would not be arrested. Many of the women fled Market
Street along with their Macquereaux, the paper reported, and had moved on to
rooming houses all over the city.177 178 The only reported arrest was of Verona Baldwin
and her pimp, Clarence Trimble of .1731 Larimer Street. The court released
Trimble on a $1,000 bond, but Baldwins record listed no information to the outcome
of her indictment.
The Grand Jury making these investigations had too many irons in the fire and
never prosecuted anyone. The courts released Michael Delaney on $1,000 bail and
never prosecuted him.179 The statute of limitations had run out on the indictments of
the stolen franchises and election ballets.180 The women of the red-light district who
the grand jury called as witnesses and those who had warrants out for their arrest had
either left the city or the district. Corruption returned to Market Street, but not for
long. In 1912, Arnold appointed Felix ONeill as Chief of Police and George Creel
m Delaney Tells How He Stole 5,000 Ballots, Rocky Mountain News, August 30,1912,1.
178 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 20821.
179 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 20799.
180 Delaney Tells How He Stole 5,000 Ballots, Rocky Mountain News, August 30,1912,1.
as Police Commissioner. With ONeill and Creel now at the helm of Denvers police
department, the red-light district in Denver would soon be history.181
Denvers red-light district went through many changes during its fifty-five
years of life. When the lights finally went out on the brothels some people believed
that it would put an end to prostitution in Denver. They thought by closing the
district, remodeling or tearing down the cribs and brothels, and building new
businesses, the area would change and would become a vital part of Denver. Others
knew better. Prostitution was not going to end. It remained in and around Market
Street well into the 1920s and eventually spread into Denvers respectable residential
areas. The women continued to ply their trade from rooming houses, hotels and on
the street. Denver continued to be a great place for fast women as F.C. Hoogstraat
had said in his letter thirty years earlier.182
181 Leonard & Noel, From Mining Camp to Metropolis, 135; Almond, Denver Police Department
Pictorial Review and History, 44.
182 Hoogstraat, 188? Letter.
DENVERS DISORDERLY WOMEN
A Priest said to a girl,
For me to sin would be no rarity,
For you to sin would be an act of charity.
For me to sin is no rarity,
I sin for cash and not for charity.1
A disorderly woman is a female who scandalizes the community with her
immoral and indecent behavior, is given to unlawful indulgence of lust, and eager
for sexual pleasure.2 Is this a fair and accurate description of the women who
worked in Denvers red-light district for years and made it one of the best-known
districts for prostitution in the American West? It may be true for some of the
prostitutes, but for the majority of women who sold their bodies out of necessity, the
definition is only partly true. Denvers prostitutes undoubtedly scandalized the
community with their behavior, but not all of them were plying the trade for their own
The women of Denvers Market Street and the other areas where prostitution
was located came from all over the world and all walks of life. Many prostitutes went
into the profession voluntarily and for every one of these working girls there was a
1 Farmer Lawton Scrapbook, Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library. The
poem reveals an attitude some men had in the 19th century toward women and the Catholic Church, but
does not portray the attitude of the author. According to Phil Goodstein in his book Robert Speers
Denver, many Protestants during the late 19* and early 20* centuries did not believe Catholics had the
same moral views as the Christians during the reform movement.
2 Black, Blacks Law Dictionary, 469,907; Hobson, Uneasy Virtue, 191.
different reason for her decision, but seldom did a woman make it her first choice for
a profession.3 When times got bad and the money ran out, prostitution was often the
best solution to otherwise unattractive alternatives, such as starving or being
homeless.4 A woman could work for one dollar a week in a physically stressful job
or she could choose to sell her body for twenty-five dollars a week.5 The choice was
usually hers. For some of Denvers illicit women, prostitution was a job that paid the
bills and was an easier and more lucrative form of employment.6 Not all of
Denvers prostitutes went into the profession full time either, as was the case for
many denizens whose names appear only once or twice in the court records. Some of
the part-timers plied their trade based on need, working only occasionally, while
others worked only when forced to by a dead-beat husband or lover.7
One example is the women who chose prostitution as an escape from life on
the farm. Working from dawn to dusk, seven days a week, at manual labor was not
the kind of life these women looked forward to. They thought they could find a
3 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 137; Butler, Daughters of Joy, 2.
4 Judith R. Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class and the State, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1980), 31; Rosen, The Maime Papers, xxvii; Simmons, Red Light Ladies,
27; Luchetti, Women of the West, 33; Leonard & Noel, Mining Camp to Metropolis, 94.
5 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 148, 151; Butler, Daughters of Joy, 27-8.
6 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 148; Laura Evans Interview, Mazzulla Collection, Colorado State
Historical Society, MSS# 188.
7 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 150.
better life and possibly some adventure in Denver.8 Many young women believed the
stories they read in romantic dime novels and popular magazines that lured girls to
the American west with idealistic notions of finding a husband or better forms of
employment.9 If a woman was not fortunate enough to marry a wealthy man or did
not wish to marry the first male to propose marriage, she found herself with limited
opportunities. William Columbus Ferril advised young girls in an 1891 newspaper
article to beware about coming west to look for a husband as foolish romantic
nonsense and the limited choices of occupations when a decent husband was not
Finding a decent husband and getting married was not always a guarantee for
security either. Some married women were deserted, divorced, or widowed at a
young age due to the hardships found on the frontier. A few miners left their families
behind in Denver as they headed off to the mountains in search of gold. Some of
these men died seeking their fortune by freezing or starving to death or by killing
themselves in despair because they did not find their fortune.11 Whatever the
situation, once the male head of household was gone it meant devastation for a family
because he was usually the sole provider. Women were frequently left alone and
8 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, xiv-xv; Kimball: Her Life, 55; Alexy Simmons, Red Light Ladies, 27.
9 William Columbus Ferril, Bring Thy Purse, The Commercial Gazette, November 14,1891,16,
Denver Public Library.
10Ferril, Bring Thy Purse, 16.
11 Sprague, Colorados First 100 Years, 22.
penniless with limited skills or education to survive, often with children to support;
their looks and charm were their only assets. In certain instances, if a woman was
unable to find employment and earn a livable wage to support her family, prostitution
was often the easiest solution to her dilemma.
There were only a few respectable forms of employment for single women
during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Young middle class women
sought positions as store or office clerks, such as stenographers or typists. Lower
class women found work as seamstresses, factory workers, laundresses, or domestic
servants. These positions paid less than those for clerks and none of these positions
paid a wage that was comparable to what men could earn.12 13 According to prostitution
historian Ruth Rosen, prostitution was not caused by poverty, but it directly affected
womens choice to enter prostitution based on wages, sudden change in the family
income and desire for upward mobility.14 Neither class of women found the pay for
these jobs to be substantial enough to survive on, not to mention the long hours,
grueling work, and sexual exploitation they had to endure.15
12 Secrest, Hells Belles, 185; Evans, Madam Millie, ix; Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 148.
u Goldman, The Traffic in Women, 21. Goldman determines that one out of every ten women in New
York work in a factory and for every forty-eight to sixty hour work week, she only earns six dollars per
week to pay her rent, buy food and other needed items. Even though these statistics are for New York,
it gives an idea how the lower class women were underpaid and in economic dire straits.
14 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 147.
15 White Slavery, Rocky Mountain News, August 5,1888,12. The article states that as a rule, many
unfortunate creatures were subjected to harsh and brutal treatment by their male employers and had
no more feelings for them as women than they did for savages.
Another threat for a young working girl was sexual harassment by her male
employer.16 Sexual exploitation of women was more common than people wanted to
admit in the late nineteenth century. Sexual abuse either by a male employer or a
family member made it easier for a young woman to make the decision to enter the
sordid life, as it seems was the case for most prostitutes at this time.17 Many
prostitutes had their first sexual encounter at an early age and usually with someone
they knew.18 If they were going to be exploited by men anyway, they might as well
get paid for it.19
Minnie Mundsack, alias Lillian Powers, a Denver harlot who eventually
moved on to Cripple Creeks red light district, sums up the feelings of many
nineteenth century prostitutes.20
I got a job in a laundry and if you think that was easy, My God! It was almost as bad
as the farm and my pay was one dollar a week. My room cost fifty cents a week -
there wasnt much left for all the fancy folderols I thought I could buy when I went
to the big city. I took up with a girl who worked next to me. We got to talking one
day and I asked her how she made out on such a piddling wage. I dont, she said,
none of us girls do on what they pay us. Every last one of us has had to get " ~~
ourselves a pimp. The quicker you do this the better off youll be.21
16 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 144.
17 Goldman, Gold Diggers & Silver Miners, 141; Washburn, The Underworld Sewer, 151; Rosen, The
Lost Sisterhood, 144-5.
18 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 144.
19 Goldman, The Traffic in Women, 12.
20 Mazzulla Collection, MSS 1881.
21 Simmons, Red Light Ladies, 27.
Not only did single women lack money to support themselves, they did not have
enough money to purchase items such as clothing that were needed to keep up
appearances, especially for those women who had jobs in retail shops or offices. Like
the fancy folderols Lillian spoke of, women wanted to look their best no matter
what their status was in society.
During the Victorian era, many young women strove for a middle class way of
life and clothing was one way of portraying that status. During this era a womans
class was based on the status of the male head of household, either her father or her
husband.22 A young middle class girl wanted to remain in the same status.23 The
goal of many lower class women was to achieve middle class status, usually by
marriage, which brings up another reason why women chose an immoral life.
Some women ended up living a life of prostitution because of false promises
and betrayal. Even though this affected only a small percentage of women, it was still
a factor for a few of the women who entered the profession.24 Panderers, pimps and
immoral men used false promises to entice young girls into an illicit relationship.
These men would promise marriage, a good life that included financial security, a
home and fine clothes a way, or so women thought to reach their goal of entering
22 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 139.
23 Rosen, The Mamie Papers, xxviii,
24 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 145.
the middle class.25 A few young women fell victim to this game. Whether the final
outcome for these men was their own selfish needs of sexual pleasure or to place the
young girl into a house of ill repute for his monetary gain did not matter. The women
were alone, abandoned in a hotel in a strange city or in a madams charge in a so-
called boarding house. Either way, the woman lost her virtue and more often than not
she felt she had no other alternative than to turn to prostitution.
The legacy of Denvers notorious madams has left us with restored brothels,
such as Matties House of Mirrors on Market Street. The life of Mattie Silks,
Denvers queen of the red-light district, who once owned the establishment, was
made into a sordid and saucy musical.26 The old red-light district in lower
downtown Denver has been restored and converted from a warehouse district to a
center for nightlife. Bars are abundant and one is aptly named the Soiled Dove.
Within the LoDo Historic District, we have preserved these buildings as a reminder of
Denvers history. People want to hear about yesterdays prostitution during the red-
light era because of descriptions that glorified many of the madams like Mattie Silks
and Jennie Rogers. The stories continue to tell us of their sordid love affairs and their
lives on the row.
25 Roe, The Great War on White Slavery, 95.
26 Advertisement Matties House of Mirrors. The Rocky Mountain News (January 17,2004), 10D.
However, in reality, Mattie Silks and Jennie Rogers were two women who had
rotten luck with men, spent thousands of dollars supporting their mens vices and died
without much money to show for their so-called glamorous lives.27 Madams, like
Jennie and Mattie, may have had a wise sense for business, but they nevertheless had
one downfall and that was their dependency on men, both in business and in life.
In 1891, Silks filed for divorce from husband, Cort Thompson, because of
extreme mental and physical abuse. Thompson beat Mattie by kicking her, after
knocking her to the ground, and giving her a black eye.28 29 Thompson also squandered
most of Matties earnings by spending thousands of dollars on gambling and other
women. Jennies luck with men was not much better. After setting up a business
for the one true love of her life, Jack Wood, she found him cheating on her with
another woman.30 We do not have actual statements from Mattie and Jennie that
reveal how they felt about the lives they led, how they operated as madams and
treated their girls or why they went into the business of commercialized sex. We
only have second-hand accounts and hearsay.
27 Seagraves, Soiled Doves, 41; Moral Conditions File, Western History/Genealogy Department,
Denver Public Library.
28 Mazzulla Collection, MSS 1881.
29 Mazzulla Collection, MSS 1881.
30 Mike Flanagan, Beauty, mystery surrounded Jennie Rogers, The Denver Post, May 14,1989;
Secrest, Hells Belles, 237; Farmer Lawton Collection, Newspaper article, October 19,1909; Miller,
Holladay Street, 219.
Mattie did not establish herself in Denver until 1876 or 1877, after coming
from Kansas and Missouri and first working in Georgetown.31 32 Jennie did not arrive
in Denver until 1879. By this time much of the district was already set-up to fill the
needs of the working girls and their clients. However, the credit for bringing a
higher standard to the realm of prostitution in Denver must go to Mattie Silks and
Jennie Rogers for their finer establishments. Word spread quickly about the two
madams, their high-class brothels, and their female boarders in Denver, making
Denvers tenderloin well known throughout the west.
Even so, there were other entrepreneurial madams who worked in Denver who
need to be duly noted as well. Catherine Evans, alias Madam Lovejoy or Rosa Evans,
owned at least six properties on Market Street that she leased but to other
prostitutes.33 In the 1900 census, Catherine listed herself as the landlady at 2005
Market Street with eight white women working for her between the ages of nineteen
to thirty-five.34 Catherine also owned twenty acres of land on South Broadway and a
building at 1625-31 Arapahoe Street, plus a house in Kansas City, where she
practiced her occupation for a short time.35 A letter of credit for Evans to purchase
31 Seagraves, Soiled Doves, 40; Secrest, Hells Belles, 218.
32 Secrest, Hells Belles, 236.
33 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4435,4436,4437, & 4438.
34 1900 U S. Census.
j5 Letter of Creditfor Catherine Evans, May 18,1897, Moral Conditions Clippings File, Western
History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library.
more property in Denver, said she was considered a good risk for a loan
notwithstanding the nature of her business.36 The letter also stated that Evans was a
shrewd businesswoman who was successful in her investments.
Like Evans, Rogers, and Silks, many of these female entrepreneurs were
successful businesswomen and had enough sense to purchase property in Denver.
Minnie Clifford, another Denver madam, purchased 512 Holladay Street on
December 23, 1880 for $3,000.37 According to the 1880 U.S. Census for Colorado,
Minnie was a Cuban bom twenty-three year old landlady, living at 489 Holladay
Street with five white seamstresses working for her.38 Five years later Minnie
listed herself as a thirty year-old, single, white woman bom in Missouri, the mistress
of 512 Holladay Street.39 It was not uncommon for prostitutes to lie to the census
takers. Early Denver denizens felt their true identities were nobodys business, so
changing their names and background information became a game. Changing then-
names was also a way of hiding from family members so they would not find out
what they did for a living and probably gave the soiled doves a new sense of self-
worth in a society that looked down upon them.40
36 Letter of Creditfor Catherine Evans.
37 Bancroft, Six Racy Madams, 6; Sandborn Insurance Maps Street Number Changes, 1887;
TheUnderworld Sewer, 150; the current address is 1942 Market Street.
38 1880 U.S. Census.
39 1885 Colorado Census.
40 Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood, 104.
In 1885, Minnie again had five women working for her. However, they all
had different names, ages, and occupations that ranged from actress to lace trimmer.41
Between 1880 and 1885 Minnie had either hired all new girls or they had changed
their identity. It was common for prostitutes to be transient and move from one
location to another quite frequently, so it would not be surprising if Minnie had all
new girls five years later. Minnie also had two servants, one Mulatto woman, Sarah
Crocket and one black woman, Julia Kearns.42 It was not unusual for a woman of
color to be employed as a servant in a brothel, but what is difficult to establish is
whether or not they also practiced the trade while there.
In 1888, Minnie Clifford leased the property at 512 Holladay Street (1942
Market) to her next-door neighbor, Jennie Rogers, for one hundred dollars per
month.43 In September of that same year, Minnie sold the house out from under
Jennie to Mary Leary for ten thousand dollars. Jennie was outraged and offered Mary
twelve thousand dollars for the house the very same day. Mary sold the frame house
to Jennie, which she would later tear down.44 By 1889, Jennie had the most
411885 Colorado Census.
42 1885 Colorado Census; Sarah Crockett was listed as a 42 year old Mulatto woman from Missouri
and Julia Kerns was a 29 year old Black woman from Georgia. The term Mulatto was used for a
child who had one black parent and the other was of European descent.
43 Bancroft, Six Racy Madams, 6; 1885 Colorado Census.
44 Historic Preservation Certification Application, Colorado Historical Society; Jacqualine Grannell
Couch, Those Golden Girls Market Street, (Fort Collins, CO: The Old Army Press, 1974), 49;
Seagraves, Soiled Doves, 49; Secrest, Hells Belles, 239.
exquisite brothel built in its place, which would become known as The House of
Mirrors at 1942 Market Street.45
Mattie Silks purchased The House of Mirrors after Jennies death in 1911.46
Mattie also owned several other buildings along Market Street at one time or another
and sold them to other women in the profession. It was customary practice for
prostitutes to buy, sell and lease property from each other and to relocate within the
same area.47 Madam Lizzie Preston rented property from Hannah Foster at 1715
Holladay Street In actuality, Hannah Foster was Lizzie Prestons legal name and the
name she used while leading her other life.48
Hannah Foster had a residence at 3051 Stout Street, in Curtis Park, where
Mrs. Mary Hessner raised Essie Foster, Lizzies daughter. No information is
available to disclose how old Essie was during Lizzies days on Market Street. When
Essie was older she went to school somewhere on the east coast.49 When Essie came
back from school, she lived with Lizzie for only a short while. This arrangement did
not last long and Essie soon moved out. Apparently, Essies stepfather, James Scott,
45 Secrest, Hell's Belles, 293. The original address where the House of Mirrors stands was at 512
Holladay Street, the original location for Minnie Cliffords brothel. Also, The House of Mirrors was
the only structure build specifically to be a brothel in the red-light district. All other buildings started
out as something else.
46 Secrest, Hells Belles, 293.
47 MacKell, Brothels, Bordellos, & Bad Girls, 61.
48 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4442.
49 Mazzulla Collection, MSS # 1881.
disliked her.50 Whether Essies stepfather felt that she got in the way of business or
Lizzie did not want her daughter exposed to an immoral life is unknown. Whatever
the reason, the court records revealed Lizzie continued business as usual.
Lizzie was practicing prostitution in Denver by 1870 at 611 Holladay Street.
Between 1880 and 1889 the courts charged Lizzie eight times for keeping a lewd or
disorderly house at 1715 and 1942 Market Street. She pled guilty to four of the
charges and paid two hundred seventy-five dollars in fines plus an unknown amount
for court costs. One of her inmates, Eva Brown, would later become another madam
in Denver by 1886.51 52 In 1885, Lizzie listed herself as a forty-two year-old white
married woman from Virginia who was the mistress of a private boarding house.
Lizzie had eleven women listed as roomers, with one male roomer who listed himself
as a musician. The youngest of the roomers was eighteen and the oldest, beside
Lizzie, was forty-two year-old Elizabeth Stanley from England. Elizabeth listed no
occupation; possibly because she was too busy taking care of her baby daughter Ida
who had been bom in Colorado seven months earlier. Lizzie died in 1904 at the age
Madams in Denver came and went during the years the red-light district was
in operation. One of the more popular madams in Colorado, snuff smoking Lou
50 Mazzulla Collection, MSS # 1881.
51 1870 U.S. Census; Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 3337 & 3421.
52 1885 Colorado Census.
Bunch, worked in Denvers red-light district for about five or six years. By 1900,
Lou moved up to Central City where she became the reigning queen of their red-light
district. But while Lou was in Denver, police arrested her at least eight times
between 1885 and 1889 for keeping a lewd or disorderly house and once for
larceny.53 54 Lou used three alias names while in Denver Georgia, Lulu and Lou. She
worked at four locations on Market Street 2026,2028,2036 and 1909-11. Lou pled
guilty to five of the charges of keeping a lewd or disorderly house and according to
court records only paid fifty dollars in fines plus the court costs.55
Denver District Court again charged Lou Bunch, under the alias of Georgia,
for larceny from the person of George Randolph in October 1898.56 According to a
court affidavit, Lous co-defendant, Charles Sexton, said that the evidence relating to
Georgias reputation did not relate to him and they should be tried separately. Sexton
also said in his affidavit that Georgia accused him of taking the money from the
complainant and giving her half, thus making Georgia innocent of all charges, which
Sexton denied. However, Georgia could never be located to stand trial and the court
53 Interview of Laura Evans, Mazzulla Collection, Colorado Historical Society, MSS 1881; Laura
Evans said that Lou smoked the snuff and not sniffed it.
**Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 4148,4149,4151,4152,3048,3379,3422,3598,4149,
55 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 3048,3379.
56 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 13409.
finally dropped all the charges.57 By the 1900 census, Lou was living in Central City
where she had probably fled when the Denver police were looking for her.
Cases like Lous reveal information about the madams in the red-light district,
who police arrested and the reason for the arrest. Court records also revealed that
there were approximately sixty-four madams working at one time or another in
Denver, and not all of them worked in the red-light district. Another twenty-seven
madams set up shop in other Denver locations.58 Police arrested four madams on
Blake Street, three on Larimer Street, nine on Wazee Street, six on Lawrence Street
and one madam on Stout Street. Police also arrested Lizzie Archer, who worked on
Blake Street, the only black madam arrested who did not work in the designated red-
light district.59 Five of the madams arrested on Wazee Street listed Chinese names,
with one giving her name as Ah Sin.60
57 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 13409.
58 Sandbom Insurance Maps; Denver District Court Inverse Index, Peoples Cases, Volume 3, 1884-
1889; Denver District Court Inverse Index, Criminal Division 1879 -1884. Between 1880 and 1889
only the madams were arrested according to the court records researched.
59 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 3376.
60 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 3446,4339; 4343,4344,4347,4345.
1886 Arrests for Keeping a Lewd House outside the designated red light district
Last Name First Name Street Address Verdict
Ford Freddie 274 20th Street $25 + costs
Slevent? Laura 450 Larimer Street Found near 450 Larimer
Sampson Jessie 466 Lawrence Street $25 + costs
Grant Jessie 322 1/2 Larimer Street Removed & certified to the criminal court
Archer Lizzie 514 Blake Street Removed & certified to the criminal court
Sin Ah 402 1/2 Wazee Street Bail fixed at $200 Never Prosecuted
Skinner Mary 341 Lawrence Street 5/15 Name changed to Kate No other information
Stiles Susan 403 1/2 Wazee Street Bail fixed at $200 Never Prosecuted
Stiles Ellen 400 1/2 Wazee Street 5/15 Name changed to Gum Sing Removed and certified to the criminal court
Stiles Fannie 406 Wazee Street Bail fixed Never Prosecuted
Two madams whose luck ran out at an early age were Amy Basset and
Victoria Fairfield. Amy Basset died in 1904 from bums from a fire that ignited while
cleaning her wardrobe with gasoline at 2015 Market Street.61 62 The fire ignited from
the friction caused by Amys brush and the gasoline she was using to clean her
dresses. When the fire started, the newspaper said it only took a few seconds for
Amy to be enveloped in flames.63 Amy was finally rescued from the fire when
policeman George Kaylor wrapped her up in a blanket and took her across the street
to the brothel of Lillis Lovell.64 Amy died from her bums shortly after being admitted
to one of Denvers hospitals.65
61 Denver District Court Inverse Index, Case # 3339,3343,3334, 3401,3376,3436, 3444,3446,3446,
62 Burned by Gasoline, Rocky Mountain News, January 2, 1904.
63 Burned by Gasoline, Rocky Mountain News, January 2,1904.
64 Secrest, Hell's Belles, 253; Burned by Gasoline, Rocky Mountain News, January 2,1904.