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Category Archives: Prostitution

Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1897. Veteran Hope Chest readers will surely recall the notorious Bender Family of Kansas, whose frontier depredations set the contemporary bar for homicidal family enterprise. This here Staffleback crew strikes me as small potatoes in comparison–murder seems to have been less their “trade” than a sideline–but their operation was not without a certain Gothic panache. Abandoned mine shafts are always good value. Read More »

The New Haven Register, April 24, 1891. I’d never heard of this murder case before, but it seems to loom pretty large in the wacky but tedious world of amateur Ripperology. The subsequent criminal investigation got oceans of ink in papers across the nation, which just goes to show the power of branding. Because it’s not like prostitute killings were rare at the time. (They never are.)

really bad dadChicago Tribune, November 5, 1872. Here’s a serious study in paternal depravity. The religious angle is sort of horrifically fascinating: Corkery, a Catholic, seems to have been telling his daughter that it was okay to bear false witness in a secular court. Teach your children well, Mr. Corkery. It gets worse, much worse. Read More »

landlordSan Francisco Chronicle, March 30, 1898. Again with the tumbler full of acid! Though I suppose if you make your living as a “Parisian dressmaker” it may make sense to keep such a thing ready at hand. Think of it as extra-strength pepper spray for the working girl.

GlynnAInteresting little window onto Chicago sporting life in 1876. I’m guessing it’s the gallows for Albert Curtis Smith. I shall try to follow up on this. . .
Oh yeah: they hanged his ass. But only because he refused to cop a manslaughter plea. Bad move, Albert. A far more richly textured account of the matter after the jump. Read More »

taxi-dance-5-10-31a2Detroit News, May 10, 1931. Okay, we’ve solved the slaying of “dime-a-dance hostess” Virginia Brannen: She was bumped off by the mob for talking to the law. And the going rate in gangland for killing a prostitute in 1931 was $300.

dimeDetroit News, April 26, 1931. A dime-a-dance hostess (aka “taxi dancer”) is pretty much a hooker, or at least on the fringes of the game. Always a very dangerous line of work.

New-York Tribune, June 3, 1869. The soi-disant unwritten law (which we were talking about a few posts back) got written about a lot. I’ve run across some entertainingly bananas editorials on the subject. Dunno anything about this Canadian precedent, but it’s nice to know that libertines were fair game in the Great White North(s) as well. And how wonderful too to see the racial nuances of the UL so forthrightly addressed by our editorialist.

The notion of men acting as murderous proxies for women too timid to pull the trigger is an interesting ideological fig leaf. The UL was brought into being by angry husbands defending their patriarchal prerogatives. But it sounds much nicer from a late-Victorian perspective if you position the killing as a gallant gesture on the wronged woman’s behalf. Plus it papers over the disturbing possibility that the wife would rather see her husband than her lover dead.

Anyway, if the woman remains the primary avenger even when her male proxy pulls the trigger, she’s operating at a level of agency hard to reconcile with premises underlying patriarchal stewardship over ye weaker sex. If women can order hits, by what right can they be denied the vote? Read More »