IN 1849, those looking for sex in Philadelphia cold buy a usefuel book: A Guide to the Stranger or Pocket Companion for THE FANCY, Containing a List of the Gay Houses and Ladies of Pleasure In The City Of Brotherly Love And Sisterly Affection.
The booklet warns of “impending danger”. Places marked with a ‘X’ should be avoided lest you contract veneral disease and meet the “lowest negro” and “swarm of yellow girls”. Other places are full of “fresh from the country” girls and a better sort of rake.
…prostitution remained big business in America’s large cities throughout the 19th century. In New York City, where we have the most reliable figures, about 1.3% of the female population worked in the business before 1850, increasing to over 2% after mid-century. Women between the ages of fifteen and thirty prostituted themselves at much higher rates. By 1855, the estimated total value of the business of prostitution, including alcohol, lodging, entertainment, and services rendered, was over six million dollars, second only to tailoring in cash value and twice as high as the value of printing, brewing, and sawmill establishments combined.
In Phildephia, not all solititing went on behind closed doors:
Prostitutes had displayed themselves from the third tier of the theater from the beginning of American drama. They came to the theater from the brothel-households in groups, often several hours before curtain time. Once there, they made contact with customers, old and new, in the upper gallery, to which there was a specialentrance for their use. The other sections of the theater were visible from the upper gallery; but the upper level was not visible to people below, unless they turned around. Occasionally, however, prostitutes solicited in the pit, for which the admittance fee was the same as for the upper gallery. At times the women in Philadelphia were reported to have stood on the benches, blocking the view of others as they waved to men they knew in the first and second tiers.
Prostitutes reportedly strolled slowly through the parks after lamps had been lighted in the evening. Solicitation also occurred along the busy streets of the business district in daylight.