Life was hard in the Old West as young men flooded the frontier looking for work in an environment where they vastly outnumbered women, leading to a golden age of brothels run by savvy madams.
These photographs from the 19th Century American Frontier show prostitutes inside their bedrooms, mingling with potential customers and scarlet women showing off their wares for the camera.
They reveal life from inside the brothels of the Wild West where prostitutes mixed with some of the most famed outlaws of the day.
These photographs from the 19th Century show American Frontier prostitutes inside their bedrooms, mingling with potential customers and scarlet women showing off their wares for the camera, like these two in Alaska in the 1890s
Two prostitutes pose in an elaborate room in a brothel in Miles, Montana, a town which district judge described as a lively little town of 1,000 inhabitants, but utterly demoralized and lawless
Prostitutes - or 'soiled doves' and 'sportin' women' as they were commonly known - were a fixture in western towns and cities.
As the frontier boomed and young men ventured west in search of work in logging, surveying, mining, and farming, there were not enough women to go around.
Maps and population data from the time showed there were up to 20 per cent more men than women in many fringe areas of the west where brothels flourished.
Almost without exception, pioneer mining camps, boomtowns and whistles-stops became home to at least one or two prostitutes - if not a roaring red light district.
Bessie Colvin, a prostitute from El Paso, Texas, caused a stir when in 1886 left one house of prostitution for another. This caused her previous madam to punch Bessie's new madam, which was retaliated with a gunshot wound to the groin
Six of Dawson City's good time girl or prostitutes posing for a photograph in Dawson, Yukon, Canada, about 1900
Prostitution contributed heavily to town economies in business licenses, fees and fines and many red light districts evolved into the social centres of their communities.
A district judge that visited Miles, Montana, in 1881 described it as a lively little town of 1,000 inhabitants, but 'utterly demoralized and lawless'.
'It is not safe to be out on the street at night. It has 42 saloons and there are on an average about a half-dozen fights every night,' he said.
Although prostitution was largely illegal, visitors could easily find them by merely opening up the local or statewide directories, such as the 1895 Travelers' Guide of Colorado.
This 66-page manual helped the interested client decide which brothel was right for him. As the industry grew, so did the number of women who approached prostitution as a business profession.
Prostitution was a dangerous job, with many dying from childbirth or from venereal disease.
But some women rose to become extremely wealthy, famous and respectable citizens in their own right by becoming madams of their own brothels.
Brothel owner and madam Alice Abbott (top left) kept a photo album of her days as a madam in El Paso, Texas
A prostitute shows off her finery in Jerome, Arizona, 1900 (left), and a room inside Alice Abbott's brothel at 19 South Utah Street, El Paso, Texas, in 1890 (right)
As one of the best-known madams in the west Mattie Silks of Denver, Colorado said: 'I went into the sporting life for business reasons and for no other. It was a way for a woman in those days to make money, and I made it.'
Ms Silks opened up her first brothel when she was 19-years-old and made $38,000 (equivalent to $1 million today) in just three months running a bordello in Dawston City, Alaska.
Meanwhile, Fannie Porter's luxurious brothel in San Antonio, Texas was a popular haunt of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch - the most successful train robbing gang in history.
Several of her 'girls' like Etta Place and Della Moore went on to marry Harry Longabaugh (better known as the Sundance kid) and Harvey Logan (known as Kid Curry).
Famous madam Belle Brezing in her private parlour in her third and most famous bordello in Lexington, Kentucky. Brezing occupied the house until her death in 1940
A client waits inside Belle Brezing's third and most famous bordello in Lexington, Kentucky
Maps and population data from the time showed there were up to 20 per cent more men than women in many fringe areas of the west where brothels flourished
Prostitute Laura Bullion even became a member of the Wild Bunch gang - supporting them by stealing stolen goods during their train robberies.
Being a Madam required a great deal of skill because as well as monitoring the cleanliness of the brothel and providing training, cosmetics and clothes, they has to keep their business transactions discreet and stay on the good side of the law.
They did so by contributing money to charitable organizations, schools, and churches.
Madams also had to deal with internal disputes, such as when Bessie Colvin, a prostitute from El Paso, Texas, caused a stir when in 1886 left one house of prostitution for another.
This caused her previous madam to punch Bessie's new madam, which was retaliated with a gunshot wound to the groin.
Until the early twentieth century, madams predominately ran the brothels, after which male pimps took over and the treatment of the women generally declined.
THE OLD WEST'S MOST INFAMOUS PROSTITUTES
MATTIE SILKS (1845-1929)
Mattie Silks became on the best known madams in the west, having brothels in Dodge City, Kansas and Denver, Colorado where demand for women was high due to the gold rushes. Mattie was a competitive businesswoman and engaged in a public duel with rival madam Kate Fulton when she opened another brothel on her patch.
Mattie was so successful that she netted $38,000 (the equivalent of $1 million today) running a bordello for three months in Dawson City, Alaska. Mattie married at least twice and also kept a lover. She had a reputation for excellent service in her establishments and was known for sheltering the needy and homeless in her brothels.
Mattie Silks, pictured, made the equivalent of $1 million over the period of three months in Dawson City in Alaska
Belle Brezing (1860-1940) was a nationally-known madam in Lexington, Kentucky - and started her first brothel in the former residence of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.
Belle catered to powerful men from Lexington and beyond, men who came to the city because of the horse business and tobacco. She gained a national reputation during the Spanish-American War (1898) when U. S. Army units were billeted in Lexington - and she only allowed officers of senior rank in her brothel.
Belle was so famous that her death warranted an obituary in Time Magazine - that she is said to have been the model for Belle Watling in the classic novel, Gone with the Wind.
Belle Brezing, pictured, became notorious when during the Spanish-American war of 1898 she only allowed men above a certain rank in the Army to use her brothel and became so famous that when she died she even received an obituary in Time Magazine
BIG NOSE KATE (1850-1940)
Originally from Hungary, Mary Katharine Haroney - more commonly known as 'Big Nose Kate' to her clients - travelled to Kansas at age sixteen to seek her fortune as a prostitute. Whilst working as a prostitute in Fort Griffin, Texas, she began a relationship with one of the deadliest/legendary/gunslingers Doc Holliday - which lasted until his death.
Kate continued to work as a prostitute throughout her relationship with Holliday - and even broke him out of jail in 1877 by starting a fire and pulling a gun on the prison guard.
Big Nose Kate, pictured here aged 15, left, broke her lover Doc Holliday out of jail in 1877 by setting a fire and pulling a gun on a guard
JULIA BULETTE (1832-1867)
Julia Bulette, an English-born American prostitute moved to mining boomtown Virginia city, Nevada in 1859 when she was twenty-seven years old. As she was the only single/ unmarried woman in the city, she became sought after by the miners and quickly decided to take up prostitution.
Julia is often remembered as being the 'original hooker with a heart of gold' - she donated large sums of money to miners in hardship, nursed victims of the influenza epidemic and was much-loved in Virginia City. When she was murdered by a French drifter in 1867, the whole town went into mourning for her - all the mines and saloons closed out of respect and thousands attended her funeral.
Julia Bulette was known as the original 'hooker with a heart of gold' and was the only single woman when she arrived in Virginia City, Nevada in 1859 aged 27 and was in much demand by the miners, soon becoming a prostitute. She was murdered in 1867
LAURA BULLION (1876-1961)
Born in Knickerbocker, Texas, Laura Bullion worked as a prostitute in Fannie Porter's famed brothel in nearby San Antonio. It was here that Laura began a relationship with outlaw and member of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch, William 'News' Carver.
Although Carver initially denied Laura's pleas to join the gang at first, he eventually relented. The group admired her skill at stealing stolen goods and assisting their train robberies - and she was nicknamed the 'Rose of the Wild Bunch' by them.
When Laura was arrested after a train robbery n 1901, the Chief of Detectives Desmond noted of her 'I would'nt [sic] think helping to hold up a train was too much for her. She is cool, shows absolutely no fear'
Laura Bullion was released from prison in 1905 and lived the remainder of her life as a seamstress, dying in Memphis, Tennessee in 1961, the last of the Wild Bunch.
Laura Bullion worked as a prostitute in Fannie Porter's famed brothel in nearby San Antonio. It was here that Laura began a relationship with outlaw and member of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch, William 'News' Carver
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