History Unleashed-Prostitution in the 19th Century

shutterstock_59973502In anticipation of the publication of Life Before, I thought I’d share some interesting historical information about some of the issues dealt with in the book – prostitution, social reform, and child labor, to name a few.

Prostitution has been prevalent in Texas since before it became part of the United States. Then after the Civil War, the industry grew, with the eight largest Texas cities having several square blocks of vice district near the downtown business districts.  Dallas had Frogtown and Boggy Bayou, Houston had Happy Hollow, Fort Worth had Hell’s Half Acre, and Austin had Guy Town.

During the Civil War, prostitutes were attracted to the army encampments.  Some even served as laundresses in the camps, but many worked at the settlements that emerged near the Army forts. The prostitution business also flourished with the rise of the ranching industry, the oil industry, and in the towns which prospered from the construction of the Texas and Pacific Railroad in the 1880’s.

Although prostitutes also worked in saloons and gambling houses, their primary residence was the brothels, or bawdy houses, run by madams, or the lower-priced crib houses. The crib tenements charged customers twenty-five cents and upwards, while the more upper-scale brothels charged as much as three to five dollars for services.

(Information provided by The Texas State Historical Association)

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